Firestone Blames Low Pressure Level For Tire Problems in Formal Hearing
                    September 22, 2000

                    Associated Press

                    WASHINGTON -- Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., "shaken to the core" by a
                    recall of tires linked to 101 U.S. traffic deaths, told a congressional
                    panel that Ford Motor Co.'s recommended tire pressure apparently
                    contributed to accidents.

                                         Firestone's executive vice president, John
                                         Lampe, told a House of Representatives
                                         subcommittee investigating the recall that his
                                         company recommended the tires be inflated to
                                         30 pounds per square inch. But Ford, which
                    uses the tires on its popular Explorer and some other light trucks,
                    suggested they be inflated only to 26 pounds.

                    "Running an Explorer at low tire pressure, overloaded, particularly in hot
                    climates appears to be a serious part of the problem we are now facing"
                    Mr. Lampe said.

                    "We believe very strongly that 30 PSI provides the consumer with
                    additional safety margin; at 30 PSI, the Explorer can handle higher
                    speeds and over 400 pounds [180 kilograms] greater load than at 26

                    Mr. Lampe said Bridgestone/Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone
                    Corp., sent a letter to Ford on Wednesday urging the company to
                    change its recommendation to 30 PSI.

                    Helen Petrauskas, Ford vice president for environment and safety
                    engineering, countered that "for the better part of 10 years, Firestone
                    agreed and repeatedly supported and certified to the recommended tire
                    pressure of 26 PSI."

                    She added that "all the requisite testing which needs to be done at the
                    recommended customer tire pressure was done."

                    Mr. Lampe said "we are not vehicle experts" and the company deferred
                    to Ford believing it knew better what tire pressure would produce
                    optimum performance.

                    Ford officials previously have said the lower tire pressure was
                    recommended for a smoother ride and to limit the possibility of
                    rollovers, and didn't compromise overall safety.

                    Bridgestone/Firestone last month recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and
                    Wilderness AT tires, most of which were original equipment on
                    Explorers. Thousands of people have reported tread separations,
                    blowouts and other problems with the tires.

                    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday
                    lowered the number of U.S. deaths linked to the tires to 101 from 103
                    after discovering a clerical error. There also have been more than 50
                    deaths outside the U.S.

                    The agency says more than 400 people have suffered injuries in
                    accidents involving the tires. Most were rollovers of Explorers.

                    Mr. Lampe said Firestone still hasn't determined what caused some tires
                    to fail, but has focused on possible manufacturing problems at its plant
                    in Decatur, Ill.

                    "We must and do take full responsibility for these problems," he said.
                    "The fact that our customers are now questioning our commitment to
                    them and to their safety has shaken us to the core."

                    At the opening of the hearing, Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House
                    commerce telecommunications subcommittee, said
                    Bridgestone/Firestone's own testing indicated problems with the tires in
                    1996, yet the company did nothing.