In Switch, Ford Will Recommend Higher Pressure on Explorer Tires
                    September 22, 2000

                    Associated Press

                    DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. will now recommend that Ford Explorer
                    owners inflate their tires to 30 pounds a square inch after
                    Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. criticized the auto maker in Congressional
                    testimony for setting the pressure too low.

                                         The auto maker released a letter Friday saying it
                                         was making the move because the company's
                                         testimony "has caused confusion among our

                    "In these trying times surrounding the Firestone tire recall, it is
                    important to eliminate this confusion for our customers," Carlos
                    Mazzorin, Ford's group vice president for global purchasing and South
                    America, said in the letter.

                    Mr. Mazzorin also noted that Bridgestone/Firestone had agreed with
                    Ford's recommended pressure of 26 psi for 10 years on the Explorer's
                    15-inch tires.

                    Among tires that are not subject to the recall, Firestone and Goodyear
                    tires on Explorers inflated at that level "have shown excellent
                    performance for our customers," he said.

                    The letter says the pressure recommendation applies to Explorer
                    owners with Firestone P235/75R15 tires. It does not say whether it
                    applies to other tires installed on the Explorer.

                    A Ford spokesman said no one was available to comment on the letter.

                    The move comes after a Bridgestone/Firestone executive told Congress
                    on Thursday that the 26 psi level Ford recommends for Explorers is
                    lower than what Bridgestone/Firestone suggests and makes the popular
                    sport utility vehicle less safe.

                    "We now know that at 26 psi there is a low safety margin for the
                    Explorer as compared to some other SUVs," Bridgestone/Firestone
                    executive vice president John Lampe said. "Running an Explorer on low
                    tire pressures, overloaded, in hot climates appears to be a part of the
                    problem that we're now facing."

                    Bridgestone/Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp., last month
                    recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires, most of which
                    were original equipment on Explorers. Federal investigators are
                    investigating the possible role of the tires in more than 100 deaths and
                    400 injuries.

                    A lower air pressure gives tires more grip and a softer ride, but causes
                    them to wear faster and creates more internal heat because of greater
                    friction with the road. Ford has said it set the recommended pressure
                    for Explorer tires at 26 psi in 1989 to improve stability and ride, and
                    that Bridgestone/Firestone had agreed with the recommendation at the

                    But experts for trial attorneys suing the two companies have speculated
                    that heat from the lower pressure weakened the bond between the tires
                    and their treads. Thousands of people, most of them Explorer owners
                    in warm-weather states, have reported tread separations, blowouts and
                    other problems with the tires.

                    Ford has consistently blamed the problems on Firestone, and said the
                    design of the Explorer was not at fault.

                    When the recall was announced in early August, Bridgestone/Firestone
                    recommended that its tires on the Explorer be inflated to between 26
                    and 30 psi, but has been emphasizing that 30 psi was a safer level.

                    Ford had continued to recommend 26 psi, though it has acknowledged
                    that a range of a range of 26 to 30 psi was acceptable.

                    Mr. Mazzorin's letter says that as recently as Aug. 18,
                    Bridgestone/Firestone said the 26 psi recommendation was not a
                    mistake. After the hearing Thursday, a Bridgestone/Firestone
                    spokeswoman could not cite any testing the company had done recently
                    to decide that 26 psi was unsafe, but said the tire industry accepts 30
                    psi as the best level.

                    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating
                    the Firestone tires in May. NHTSA Administrator Sue Bailey said the
                    agency now is examining how speed, temperature, load and tire
                    pressure affect safety on SUVs.

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

                    Mr. Mazzorin said the tire pressure change "does not address the root
                    cause of the Firestone tread separations" and said the companies
                    needed to find the causes of "the tire manufacturing and/or design