Firestone Cited Explorer Flaw For Venezuela Tire Troubles
                    September 27, 2000

                    By TIMOTHY AEPPEL and CLARE ANSBERRY
                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said it didn't carry out a plan to replace
                    problem tires on Ford Explorers in Venezuela last spring because of
                    suspension problems with the Ford vehicle.

                                         Without a change in suspension,
                                         Bridgestone/Firestone contended that the
                                         Explorer would continue to experience deadly
                                         rollovers. Jorge A. Gonzalez, president of
                                         Bridgestone/Firestone's Venezuelan operations,
                    said in a memo dated May 9 and describing a meeting with Ford Motor
                    Co.'s representatives in Venezuela that "we know for a fact that the
                    vehicle may roll over with any tire brand."

                    Ford was pressing Firestone, owned by Japan's Bridgestone Corp., to
                    replace tires supplied on Explorers sold in that South American country.
                    The tires had suffered from a high rate of tread separations.
                    Venezuela's attorney general is investigating both Ford and Firestone in
                    connection with 47 deaths linked to tire failures on Ford Explorers.

                    In the memo, Mr. Gonzalez said replacing the tires, without also
                    correcting the Explorer's suspension, "would put in jeopardy the
                    Bridgestone brand in Venezuela."

                    Ford had made some changes in Venezuelan Explorers' suspension in
                    the 1999 model year, adding stiffer shocks. In addition, Ford was
                    offering the same suspension change to owners of older vehicles, but
                    only if requested by the owner.

                    Firestone wanted Ford to make suspension changes on all of its
                    Explorers as a condition to replacing the Firestone tires. Ford balked at
                    that condition. "We said 'No,' " said Ford's Jon Harmon. Ford insists the
                    changes to the suspension had nothing to do with the tire problems
                    and didn't want to link the two issues.

                    Rather, Ford said it changed the suspension because of "customer
                    preference and driving conditions" in Venezuela, where high-speed
                    driving on rough roads is commonplace. A stiffer suspension would
                    provide more support on rough roads at a higher speed but a harsher
                    ride on smooth roads. Ford subsequently replaced the Firestone tires
                    with ones made by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

                    Ana Cecilia Colmenarez, manager of legal affairs for Firestone's
                    Venezuelan operation, also wrote a summary of the Ford meeting that
                    was released by congressional investigators. In her note, Ms.
                    Colmenarez makes it clear the two sides were already battling to avoid
                    legal liability. She wrote that Firestone made it clear "that in our opinion,
                    the problem their Explorers were confronting in Venezuela resided in
                    their suspension system and therefore any liability should be placed in"
                    Ford, not Firestone.

                    Separately, a group of plaintiffs attorneys is asking a U.S. District Court
                    judge to expand the recall to include all Wilderness, ATX and ATX tires,
                    regardless of size or origin. At this point, the recall is limited to 15-inch
                    Wilderness AT tires produced at Firestone's Decatur, Ill., plant, and all
                    15-inch ATX, ATX II tires. A hearing on the move is set for Oct. 16.

                    -- Norihiko Shirouzu contributed to this article.

                    Write to Timothy Aeppel at and Clare
                    Ansberry at