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Documents Point to Tire Problem

September 6, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. collected data from 1997 to 1999 indicating possible safety problems with the same tire models that were recalled last month, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Officials with Ford Motor Co., which uses the tires, previously said the tire maker told them it did not compile such data.

The internal Bridgestone/Firestone documents marked ``confidential″ show most of the customer reports of tread separation involved tires from the company’s Decatur, Ill., plant. More than a third of the reports involved the P235/75R15 size tires that now are under recall.

The tire maker announced a recall on Aug. 9 of the P235/75R15-size ATX and ATX II models as well as Wilderness AT tires in the same size. Many of the tires were made at the Decatur plant. The tires are standard equipment on some Ford models, including the Explorer.

The documents are not dated, so it is unclear when the data were compiled. However, Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone have maintained no statistics were compiled showing problems with the tires until Ford analyzed Bridgestone/Firestone’s claims of property damage or injuries in late July and early August.

Ford spokesman Jon Harmon said he was unaware of the internal documents. ``It’s the first time I’ve heard of this information,″ he said.

Bridgestone/Firestone did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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