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Ford, Firestone To Report on Tires

December 11, 2000

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. are ready to report to government investigators that they have reached similar conclusions regarding tire failures blamed for 148 deaths nationwide, according to USA Today.

According to a report in the paper’s Monday edition, the conclusions would clear workers producing the Firestone tires and the Ford Explorer vehicle, to which many of the fatalities have been linked. The paper said the companies were expected to report later in the day.

Ford officials said Monday the company is still researching the cause of the tread separations and has not determined a cause.

``We have not reached any conclusions,″ said Ford spokesman Ken Zino. ``We do not have anything to announce.″

Zino characterized the meeting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a status report and a regular part of the investigation.

Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman Dave Dickson confirmed that company officials will be meeting with NHTSA later this week to discuss the status of its investigation. He would not comment on speculation about a possible root cause.

The companies are expected to focus on problems in the tire manufacturing process involving adhesives and a layer of rubber between the tires’ steel belts, sources familiar with companies’ plans told USA Today.

Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone would not say in advance what they would tell NHTSA, USA Today reported. The newspaper said Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone have conducted separate investigations of the tires and why they failed, and have been discussing their findings with each other.

NHTSA figures link 148 deaths to separations, blowouts and other tread problems in Firestone’s ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires, 6.5 million of which were recalled this summer. Many of those tires were standard equipment on the Explorers.

Blaming the tire design and manufacturing processes could take heat off the Explorer, whose design Bridgestone/Firestone has been linking to rollovers when tires failed. It also could counter theories that underqualified replacement workers made faulty tires during a 1995-1996 strike at Firestone’s Decatur, Ill., factory, or that regular workers’ poor performance was responsible.

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