Ford to Use Michelin Tires On Its New Explorer SUVs
                    September 28, 2000

                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    Ford Motor Co. plans to equip the bulk of its next-generation Explorer
                    sport utility vehicles with Michelin tires, abandoning its decade-long
                    reliance on tires made by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., according to a
                    person familiar with the situation.

                                         The move comes as controversy surrounding
                                         the massive recall of Firestone tires has driven a
                                         wedge into the century-old relationship between
                                         Ford and Firestone, owned by Japan's
                                         Bridgestone Corp. The government is
                    investigating 101 deaths over the past decade that are allegedly linked
                    to Firestone tires mounted mainly on Ford Explorers.

                    Since the Aug. 9 recall, Ford has asked France's Groupe Michelin SA to
                    supply as many tires as needed. But Ford wouldn't confirm how much
                    new business the auto maker plans to give to Michelin. Ford also is
                    negotiating with other tire makers to supply tires for the 2002 Explorer,
                    which will become available early in 2001.

                    Jacques Nasser, Ford's chief executive, said the company plans for the
                    first time to allow dealers and consumers to choose which brand of tires
                    they want on the Explorer. He added that Ford also plans to offer a
                    similar choice on its other vehicles.

                    "It's a major shift," said Mr. Nasser about the company's decision to let
                    consumers choose their tires. Asked if there could be no new Explorers
                    with Firestone tires as a result of the policy, Mr. Nasser, who was
                    attending the Paris auto show, said only, "The customers will decide."

                    According to documents unsealed Wednesday in federal court in
                    Brunswick, Ga. Firestone's adjustment data from the early 1990s
                    showed that tread separations accounted for close to 60% of all
                    Firestone's defective tires. The figure for tread separations was even
                    higher at the company's plant in Wilson, N.C., where tread separations
                    accounted for an average of 68% of all adjustment data.

                    The suit was filed by Michael and Kim Van Etten against
                    Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford relating to the March 1997 death of
                    their son, Daniel, who died when the Firestone tire on his Explorer
                    failed. The tire, an ATX tire that is included in the recall, was made at
                    Firestone's Wilson plant in 1993. "It's important to see how high the
                    Wilson figures are because all the emphasis has been placed on
                    Decatur," said Rowe Brogdon, who represented the Van Ettens in the
                    case, which was settled in August 1999.

                    Mr. Brodgon was referring to Firestone's plant in Decatur Ill., which has
                    been blamed for the bulk of the tires included in the recall. "It's not this
                    plant or that plant. It's the manufacturing processing," he said.

                                           Time to Rotate

                    Ford announced it will offer customers buying the 2002 Explorer a
                    choice between brands of tires.

                    2001 Explorer

                         Available now
                         With 15 and 16-inch Firestone Wilderness AT tires

                    2002 Explorer

                         Available early 2001
                         With 16-inch Firestone tires or Michelin tires

                    Companies Negotiating to Provide Tires for the 2002 Explorer

                         Goodyear Tire & Rubber
                         Continental General Tire

                    Adjustment data include only reports of defects that are reported to
                    Firestone dealerships and accepted as defective. Firestone said it
                    couldn't comment on those documents. "A tread separation is a typical
                    normal failure for a steel-belted radial. But it's typically a result, not a
                    cause, whether that's a road hazard, underinflation or an improper
                    repair," a representative said.

                    For Firestone, the loss of Ford, its biggest customer, would be a
                    potentially crushing blow. For now, Firestone is bracing for the imminent
                    loss of the Explorer business. "Our plans are to do their initial
                    production [of tires for the Explorer] for the first one or two months,"
                    said a Firestone spokeswoman. "Then after that, they haven't given us
                    any indication of what percentage we're going to be or what number of
                    tires to produce for them."

                    Lynn Mann, a Michelin spokeswoman, declined to comment on Ford's
                    plans. "As is our standard policy, any announcement regarding Michelin
                    brand tires appearing as original equipment on vehicles comes from the

                    Many Ford dealers, who will begin ordering their first 2002 Explorers in
                    the next few weeks, said Firestone's image has been tarnished by the
                    tire recall. "We're going to order everything but Firestone," said Jerry
                    Reynolds, a Ford dealer in Texas and chairman of the nationwide Ford
                    Dealer Council. Added Puyallup, Wash., Ford dealer Jerry Korum:
                    "Customers are scared of Firestone right now."

                    Ford cast its net widely in its search for tires. Katharina Konowalski, a
                    spokeswoman for Continental General Tire Inc., the U.S. division of
                    Germany's Continental AG, declined to discuss any specific negotiations
                    with Ford, but said: "We're having conversations with Ford about
                    various new business opportunities, which would include the Ford

                    And Ford began talking to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. soon after the
                    recall was announced, though initially the focus was on identifying tires
                    needed to supply replacements for the recall. "We haven't been given
                    any business," said Chuck Sinclair, a Goodyear spokesman. "But we're
                    going at it from the standpoint of moving forward to get technical
                    approvals to supply that vehicle. We wouldn't be working on it if there
                    weren't a pretty good chance that we're going to be on that vehicle."

                    Meanwhile, Firestone's problems continue to mount overseas as well.
                    Earlier this week, the tire maker learned that Saudi Arabia has banned
                    the import of all Firestone tires. In a statement, Firestone said "the
                    scope of this action is uncalled for and extreme." A spokeswoman said
                    the company has already met with the U.S. trade representative to
                    express objections to the Saudi ban.

                    Separately, a congressional subcommittee unanimously approved
                    legislation that would impose criminal penalties on auto makers that fail
                    to notify regulators about safety defects. But members of the House
                    subcommittee on consumer protection couldn't agree on an amendment
                    that would require the government to test the propensity of vehicles to
                    roll over.

                    -- Sholnn Freeman, Joseph White, Stephen Power and Clare Ansberry
                    contributed to this article.

                    Write to Timothy Aeppel at and Norihiko
                    Shirouzu at