By TODD ZAUN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
TOKYO -- The president of embattled Bridgestone Corp., breaking his
long silence over the mass recall of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tires in
the U.S., vowed to deal decisively with the crisis but offered no new
initiatives for aiding owners of affected vehicles.
Yoichiro Kaizaki told a news conference that the
Japanese company is focusing its energies on
determining the root cause of accidents
involving Ford Explorer vehicles equipped with
He said statistical data indicate there might be problems with the tires,
but that the company hasn't determined any cause yet. He also
repeated Bridgestone's assertion that the company hadn't deliberately
withheld information about tire problems in overseas markets from U.S
"We promise to support the Firestone brand with all the strength of the
Bridgestone group," Mr. Kaizaki told a news conference.
Mr. Kaizaki's remarks, though they seemed to break little new ground,
were noteworthy nonetheless because they marked his first comments
on the matter since last month, when his company's
Bridgestone/Firestone unit began a voluntary recall of Firestone-brand
tires on Ford Explorer vehicles that may be implicated in the deaths of
more than 100 drivers in the U.S. and Venezuela.
Still, it isn't clear whether Mr. Kaizaki and Bridgestone will take a more
aggressive stance in promoting its own interpretation of the tire
Until now, Ford's voice has been dominant in the discussion, largely
because Bridgestone headquarters in Japan has been so silent on the
Mr. Kaizaki himself has been lying low, leaving the public-relations tasks
to Masatoshi Ono, Bridgestone/Firestone's chief executive in the U.S.
Mr. Kaizaki disclosed at the news conference that he has visited the U.S.
during the recall crisis, but didn't provide further details.
In stark contrast, Ford Motor Co. executive Jacques Nasser has
frequently made himself available for media interviews. Mr. Kaizaki's
move to speak up in public comes a week after Mr. Ono stumbled
through testimony before Congress on the tire recall.
Mr. Kaizaki, known for being unusually tough and frank for a Japanese
executive, is extremely well regarded in Japan for having led the
turnaround of Bridgestone/Firestone in the U.S., which Mr. Kaizaki
himself ran from 1991 to 1993, before taking on the presidency of
Bridgestone in Tokyo. Bridgestone bought Firestone in 1988.