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Firestone Exec’s Testimony Sought

October 9, 2000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Attorneys representing customers who have sued Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. are hoping to get answers from the embattled company’s chief executive as they try to convince the courts to expand the tire maker’s recall.

CEO Masatoshi Ono has already testified before congressional committees looking into the recall of some 6.5 million Firestone tires. He apologized for dozens of fatal accidents that may be linked to his company’s tires.

Attorneys Gordon Ball and Mary Pat Viles want the recall _ now limited to Firestones’s ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires _ to include 24 other brands and be overseen by a judge, rather than the tire maker.

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

The lawyers began taking a deposition Monday from Ono at a Nashville hotel. Ono was brought in through one of six hotel entrances, avoiding waiting reporters before he went to a room on the ninth floor for questioning.

The deposition ended around 6 p.m., and Ono left without talking to reporters.

It was believed this would be the first time he would talk to attorneys suing over his company’s tires.

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

Two other top Bridgestone/Firestone executives _ vice presidents Gary Crigger and John Lampe _ were to be questioned later this week.

Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Tokyo’s Bridgestone Corp., announced the recall in August.

The National Highway Traffic 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.

Ball, of Knoxville, and 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.

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

NHSTA: http://www.nhtsa.gov

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