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Attorneys To Depose Masatoshi Ono

October 9, 2000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone’s top executive will be asked Monday when his company knew about problems with its tires and why it didn’t act sooner, say attorneys who are in Nashville to depose Masatoshi Ono.

The seven-hour deposition scheduled at a Nashville hotel is believed to be the first time that Ono will talk with attorneys who have filed lawsuits over his company’s tires, which have been linked to more than 150 deaths worldwide.

In August, Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Tokyo’s Bridgestone Corp., recalled some 6.5 million of its ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires.

The National Highway Transportation Safety administration later issued a consumer advisory on 1.4 million more Firestone tires considered potentially unsafe and opened an investigation into the Steeltex brand.

Ono, who is CEO and chairman of the U.S. operations and executive vice president of Bridgestone Corp., testified last month before Congressional committees looking into the recall and will be asked about his comments during Monday’s deposition, said Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball.

``We want to know when he knew there were problems with the tires, what he knew, what the company knew,″ Ball said.

Ball and attorney Mary Pat Viles of Fort Myers, Fla., represent consumers seeking class action status for lawsuits claiming Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Co., which used the tires as standard equipment on some vehicles, breached their warranties and provided products that were not fit for their intended use.

The attorneys are trying to get the courts to expand the recall to 24 other brands of tires and to have a judge oversee the recall, rather than the tire maker.

``It’s somewhat akin to the fox guarding the hen house right now,″ Ball said Sunday.

Ball said two other top Bridgestone/Firestone executives will be deposed later in the week _ vice presidents Gary Crigger and John Lampe.

Last week, Bridgestone President Yoichiro Kaizaki told Nikkei Business magazine that Bridgestone/Firestone’s top management would be restructured, though he didn’t specify how.

Bridgestone/Firestone officials have said the cost of the original tire recall will likely run the company about $350 million.

In a ″60 Minutes″ interview that aired Sunday night, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser was asked about the cost of the recall to Ford. Nasser didn’t specify a number, but when asked if it would be around $500 million, he said that was a close figure.

___

On the Net:

Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com

Bridgestone/Firestone: http://www.bridgestone-firestone.com

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