U-Haul International Inc. is directing its stores not to rent trailers to owners of Ford Explorers because it fears being drawn into Explorer-related litigation.
Tires, however, have not been mentioned in this action and won't be, according to spokespeople for U-Haul and Ford Motor Co.
Ford became the brunt of massive litigation-particularly surrounding its Ford Explorer model-after August 2000 and Bridgestone/Firestone's recall of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. Most of these tires were original equipment on Explorers and other Ford sport-utility vehicles.
U-Haul quietly introduced its new non-Explorer rental policy Dec. 22.
A company spokeswoman said U-Haul had not considered banning trailer rentals to vehicles equipped with certain tires and would not do so.
``This policy was based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations,'' she told Tire Business.
A Ford spokesman noted, and U-Haul confirmed, that U-Haul still rents trailers to owners of Mercury Mountaineers, which mechanically are nearly identical to Ford Explorers.
``They've been very clear that this is not based on safety concerns or any technical issue but strictly on the litigation issue,'' the Ford spokesman said.
U-Haul has never mentioned tires to Ford in discussing the rental issue, he added.
U-Haul and Bridgestone/Firestone settled a case in Texas last September involving three students who were injured in 1999 when their Ford Explorer-equipped with Firestone tires and towing a U-Haul trailer-went out of control and rolled over.
Bridgestone/Firestone declined to comment on U-Haul's latest action concerning Explorers.