By NORIHIKO SHIROUZU
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co., trying to control damage on its Explorer
sport-utility vehicle from the Firestone tire recall, said it is in discussions
with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. over supplying tires for the 2002
model of the popular SUV.
Ford spokesman Della DiPietro said the auto
maker is "looking at the possibility of extending
the sourcing beyond the two that we have
already identified -- Michelin and Firestone -- to
include other manufacturers including
Goodyear." No final decision has been made, she added. She couldn't
say when Ford and Goodyear began talking.
Ford has said the new Explorer, whose production is due to start later
this year, would go on sale next year with two tire options: Michelin and
Firestone. It would be a blow to the Nashville unit of Japan's
Bridgestone Corp. if Ford moved to name a third tire supplier for the
Explorer and eroded Firestone's grip on the Explorer business.
The long and storied relationship between Ford and Firestone has
shown strain since Firestone announced a recall of 6.5 million 15-inch
ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires on Aug. 9. Last week, Ford Chief
Executive Jacques Nasser told reporters that he is disappointed in
Firestone and is taking his company's ties with the tire maker "a day at
Goodyear last month boosted output of 15-inch SUV tires at its
manufacturing facilities to help Firestone meet demand for replacement
tires for the recall, in part because of Ford's request. Ford has said the
current Explorer uses both 15- and 16-inch tires, but the new model
will use only 16-inch tires.