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Ford tyre recall may spread to Australia

Grim news: Ford president and CEO Jac Nasser and company chairman William Clay Ford jr announce the recall.

Ford will spend $5.7 billion replacing Firestone Wilderness tyres

Ford logo24 May 2001

FORD Australia will not know for up to a week whether it will have to join a massive recall of Firestone Wilderness AT tyres announced by its parent in the US yesterday.

Ford yesterday announced it will replace all 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tyres on its vehicles in an effort to resolve the safety concerns related to blowouts predominantly on its Explorer four-wheel drive vehicles.

The program will cost $5.7 billion and was prompted by a statistical analysis that found Firestone tyres were three times more likely to fail than other brands.

In Australia, however, Explorers have been using a different specification Wilderness SS tyre for the past two and a half years. Ford Australia has queried head office about whether these tyres are included in the replacement program.

"If they say we have to replace them, we'll get in touch with our customers," a Ford Australia spokesperson said.

"We're developing a list of customers now." In a press announcement, Ford Motor Company described its action as precautionary and said it was based on analysis of data on the actual road performance of these tyres, comparisons with the performance of comparable tyres by other tyre makers, a review of information developed by and received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and extensive laboratory and vehicle testing.

The company said many of the non-recalled Wilderness AT tyres on the road today appeared to perform substantially better than the tyres recalled last year.

But analysis of real world performance data, information from NHTSA and lab and vehicle testing indicate that some of the non-recalled Wilderness AT tyres will probably experience elevated failure rates at some time in the future.

President and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, Jac Nasser, said: "Our unequivocal commitment to our customers is the core value of Ford Motor Company. Since last year we have closely monitored field data from Firestone, worked closely with NHTSA and conducted extensive laboratory and road testing.

"Taken together, all the data and analysis do not give us sufficient confidence in the future durability and performance of the non-recalled Wilderness AT tyres on our vehicles.

"While some of the tyres we are replacing do not have a substantial failure risk, we are offering to replace all Wilderness AT tyres to avoid any confusion among our customers and eliminate any doubt about the quality of their tyres. There are early warning signs about these tyres and we will not ignore them." The decision to replace Wilderness AT tyres on all Ford vehicles came just 24 hours after Firestone, owned by Japanese tyre giant Bridgestone, announced it was ending its 96-year relationship with Ford, saying it no longer trusted the world's second biggest car-maker and that the Explorer's design shared blame for the accidents.

Last August, 14.4 million 15-inch Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tyres were recalled, of which an estimated 6.5 million were believed to have been on the road.

At least 148 deaths in the US have been linked to accidents involving Firestone tyres, most of which were mounted on Ford Explorers.

The tyres most commonly failed when driven at high speeds on hot surfaces. Treads peeled off the tyres and vehicles flipped.

Ford and Firestone/Bridgestone have been arguing constantly for more than a year whether a bad vehicle design, bad tyres or both were to blame for causing the rollovers.

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