DETROIT (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. will offer tire warranties on all of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models as a way to alert itself to problems such as the failures of Firestone tires on Ford trucks linked to over 140 deaths.

Ford said its tire warranties would begin with 2001 models and cover repairs made on or after Jan. 1. The warranties provide that tires with defects in materials or construction will be replaced at no charge.

Ford has been considering the move since the recall last August of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. The recall exposed one of the quirks of the U.S. auto industry: Unlike every other part of a vehicle, most automakers don't guarantee tires, sending complaints to tire dealers.

Only General Motors Corp. covers tires under its basic warranties in the United States _ a system that GM has said gives it early signs of tire problems.

``We now stand behind every component in our vehicles,'' Ford president and CEO Jacques Nasser said in a statement. ``Administering our own tire warranty will also play a role in our `early warning system,' providing early access to data on tire performance.''

A lack of warranty data was the main reason Ford has given for not spotting troubles with Firestone truck tires sooner. For a number of months before the recall, Ford executives denied there were problems with the tires, based on Firestone's analysis of its warranty data. Only after Ford analyzed the data itself did it agree to a recall.

The warranties will come as part of the basic vehicle warranty, which runs for three years or 36,000 miles on Ford and Mercury vehicles, and four years or 50,000 miles on Lincolns.

Other automakers have said they were considering such warranties.

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