More Ford Vehicle Tires Could Soon Be Recalled
                    September 19, 2000

                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    Continental General Tire Inc. is expected to announce a recall of about
                    200,000 tires supplied to Ford Motor Co. because of tread-separation
                    problems, adding more woes to the auto maker already embroiled in the
                    massive Firestone recall.

                                         Separately, Ford said company engineers have
                                         determined that the left rear tire on all vehicles,
                                         including the popular Explorer, is the most
                                         vulnerable to failure or tread separation, but
                                         haven't made "a clear-cut finding" as to why.

                    Officials of Continental General, the U.S. unit of Germany's Continental
                    AG, and Ford are meeting in Washington Tuesday to brief the National
                    Highway Traffic Safety Administration about failures of Continental tires
                    that were supplied for Lincoln Navigators.

                                      Why the Left Rear Tire?

                    Possible explanations behind why Ford Explorers' left rear tire treads
                    blew off more frequently than other tires' treads.

                         Fuel tank is by left rear tire.
                         Drive shaft movements tend to load the left, rather than right rear
                         'Reflective energy': Grass or gravel on the right hand side of the
                         road keeps that side cooler than the concrete or asphalt on the
                         left. High temperatures put more stress on a tire.

                    Continental supplied a total of nearly 700,000 tires to Ford for
                    Navigators over the last three years. However, people close to the
                    situation say the replacement action would focus on a group of fewer
                    than 200,000 tires, just a portion of the 16-inch tires supplied in 1998
                    and 1999. Navigators switched to using a 17-inch tire in 2000.

                    The Continental replacement action is expected to take place in the U.S.
                    as well as overseas. Last week, Ford acknowledged it had experienced
                    possible tread-separation problems with Continental tires on Navigators
                    in Saudi Arabia, the same country where early problems with Firestone
                    tires surfaced. People close to the situation say Ford has encountered
                    similar problems in the U.S.

                    In a joint statement, both companies noted that "the information the
                    companies will share with NHTSA includes no reports of serious
                    accidents, fatalities or serious injuries." No rollover accidents, the main
                    source of injuries and deaths in accidents linked to Ford Explorers with
                    Firestone tires, are known.

                    NHTSA officials said there are no investigations at this time regarding
                    Continental tires failing on Navigators. Ford requested the meeting to
                    discuss complaints about tread separations on those tires in Saudi
                    Arabia. The two companies plan to brief the NHTSA on Continental's
                    warranty and claims experience in the field for 1998 and 1999 Lincoln
                    Navigators with 16-inch ContiTrac AS tires.

                    Meanwhile, congressional investigators, poring over reams of
                    documents turned over by Ford and Firestone on Friday, participated in
                    conference calls with company officials, questioning them about test
                    data on the tires that go back years. "You're looking for that one
                    document that says, 'we have 800 accidents involving tread separation,'
                    or 'eight accidents involving tread separation,' " a congressional staffer
                    said. "The problem is, test people don't write that kind of stuff. They tell
                    you it failed or it went so far. And unless you know what the test was
                    done for, you don't know what it means."

                    Ford dismisses the notion that the greater failure tendency of the rear
                    tires, and especially the left rear tires, of the Explorer helps explain the
                    large number of Firestone tire failures that led to last month's recall by
                    Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp. But
                    others, including Bridgestone Chief Executive Yoichiro Kaizaki, note that
                    the bulk of the Firestone tire failures have occurred on Ford Explorers
                    and suggest the vehicle could be part of the problem.

                    The fact that most of the Firestone tire-tread separations involve the
                    left rear tire could help determine if there is something about the vehicle
                    itself that contributes to the tire failures, tire experts say.

                    Both Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone are still trying to pinpoint what is
                    causing so many accidents involving Firestone tires on Ford's Explorer.
                    The NHTSA has reported more than 1,400 complaints, 88 deaths and
                    250 injuries stemming from accidents during the past decade in which
                    Firestone tire treads separated.

                    Ford says there are several possible reasons the left rear tire may fail
                    more often. Mr. Vaughn notes that is where "the fuel tank is." As a
                    result, there is more static weight there, which would mean a constant
                    and heavy pressure in that area. He also said that the way the drive
                    shaft turns tends to load more pressure on the left than on the right
                    rear tire.

                    Driving habits also put more stress on the left rear tire. People tend to
                    drive in the right lane, thus the right tire is bordered by grass or gravel.
                    The left tire is bordered by more asphalt or concrete, which has a higher
                    temperature. The theory, according to Mr. Vaughn, is that the concrete
                    and asphalt produce "reflective energy." Increased heat on a tire can
                    lead to tread and belt separation.

                    Dick Baumgardner, a tire expert who often testifies against tire makers
                    in lawsuits, has studied about 50 accidents involving the recalled
                    Firestone tires since 1995, and says he has noticed a pattern. About
                    80% of the time, the accidents occurred after the failure of a rear tire.
                    And in about half of the 50 cases, it was the left rear tire that failed.

                    He believes the rear-tire failures on the Explorers cause a "steering
                    reaction that can't be controlled by the driver." That, coupled with the
                    high center of gravity of the SUVs, leads to the high incidence of

                    Tire makers insist there is no reason a tread separation should result in
                    an accident. They point to the prevalence of tread separations -- as
                    evidenced by the mounds of tire treads on the edges of highways.

                    "Tires fail from separations, but that's no reason for a vehicle to go out
                    of control," says Harold Herzlich, a tire consultant who often works for
                    tire makers. Mr. Herzlich says that even if a rear tire on a vehicle fails,
                    basic rules of physics still apply: Objects in motion want to keep moving
                    forward in a straight line.

                    A vehicle that loses a tire tread will be pulled "slightly" toward the side of
                    the failure, he says, but most drivers should be able to compensate and
                    slowly bring the car to a stop. Mr. Herzlich acknowledges, however, that
                    some drivers may be startled by the loud noise of a tread coming loose,
                    stepping on the brakes or turning sharply in their confusion.

                    Separately, Ford said tires on its 2002 Explorer will require a higher
                    tire-inflation rate because the vehicle will use 16-inch tires and has a
                    third-row seat that makes the vehicle heavier. Ford spokesman Jason
                    Vines said Ford hasn't yet determined what its recommended level of
                    tire inflation for the 2002 Explorer will be.

                    Tire pressure has emerged as a crucial issue in the Firestone debacle.
                    When tire pressure is low, sidewalls flex more than they are meant to as
                    the vehicle travels down the highway. All that extra flexing can quickly
                    build up high levels of heat inside the tire, which can damage the bonds
                    that hold the tire together.

                    Firestone has recommended that the tires be inflated to 30 pounds per
                    square inch, while Ford initially recommended 26 pounds per square
                    inch, although it now recommends a range of 26 to 30 pounds per
                    square inch. Ford said the higher tire inflation rate for the 2002 models
                    is not the result of the Firestone recall.

                    Write to Timothy Aeppel at, Stephen Power at
           and Norihiko Shirouzu at