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Tire Recall Is Almost Finished

October 23, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. will finish recalling 6.5 million tires by the end of November, but a company probe has so far found no grave problems with the tires, the president of parent Bridgestone Corp. said Monday.

Yoichiro Kaizaki said the tire maker has already replaced or paid for exchanging 4.2 million tires.

But an interim report of its own probe of production and quality control at the Nashville, Tenn.-based division so far showed ``no major problem,″ he said.

In August, Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires, most of them on Ford Explorers. The tires have been linked to 119 deaths and 500 injuries in the United States; in addition, more than 50 deaths in other countries have reportedly involved Firestone tires.

Bridgestone and Ford Motor Co. have ``slightly different views on the point of whether the tires are entirely responsible″ for the accidents, Kaizaki said, adding that Ford may bear some responsibility.

Ford has adamantly maintained the accidents are caused by tire-related problems, and have nothing to do with the automaker’s vehicles.

It is too early to estimate the cost of the massive recall, but the company does not plan to revise its parent-level earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, he said. The firm took a charge of $350 million in its third quarter to cover the costs so far of recalling the tires.

Kaizaki also said he has no intention of stepping down to take responsibility for the recall.

``My duty is to rebuild this company,″ he said.

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