Continental General Faces Queries On Tires Supplied for Ford Broncos
                    October 4, 2000

                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    As safety concerns about the nation's tires grow, Continental General
                    Tire Inc. is facing renewed scrutiny over a line of tires allegedly linked to
                    at least 18 fatalities, most involving rollovers on Ford Motor Co.'s
                    Bronco II sport-utility vehicle.

                    The tires were the focus of a four-month investigation by the U.S.
                    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1993. The NHTSA
                    closed its inquiry, saying that the failure and rollover rates weren't
                    higher than those of Bronco IIs equipped with other tires. At that point,
                    the tires allegedly were linked to five deaths. Continental General is the
                    U.S. division of Germany's Continental AG.

                    But plaintiffs attorneys in civil cases currently pending against
                    Continental General and Ford say there are inconsistencies in figures
                    supplied to the NHTSA in the earlier investigation. According to court
                    documents released this week, Continental told the NHTSA it had made
                    1.2 million GT 52S tires, most as original equipment on 1986-1988
                    Bronco IIs, while Ford said it had sold about 42,000 Bronco IIs with
                    those tires, suggesting a far smaller number of GT 52S tires.

                    NHTSA uses tire-production figures to determine whether the
                    percentage of defective tires is high in a given population of tires. If so,
                    the agency is more likely to press for a recall. An NHTSA spokesman
                    declined Tuesday to comment on whether the agency would reopen an
                    investigation. "We're not planning on doing anything at the moment,"
                    an NHTSA official said, adding that the agency hadn't yet received
                    documentary evidence in the matter.

                    The matter arises as the massive tire recall by Bridgestone/Firestone
                    Inc. sparks questions by congressional investigators and consumer
                    advocates about tire safety. Continental itself recently agreed to replace
                    160,000 tires supplied to Ford for use on the Lincoln Navigator because
                    of tread separation. None of those Continental tires were involved in

                    Continental spokesman Daryl Hollnagel defended the validity of the
                    information the company provided to the NHTSA during the 1993
                    investigation, and said he couldn't explain why Ford had "inconsistent"
                    data. Tuesday, Ford said it stands by the information it provided the

                    Court documents also indicate the NHTSA wasn't given internal
                    Continental memos regarding a tire-replacement program in the early
                    1990s conducted by Continental with a major distributor, Big O Tires, of
                    Denver, that was prompted by high numbers of tread separations
                    occurring on the same type of tires that subsequently came under
                    investigation by the NHTSA. The memos were cited in a civil case
                    pending in state court in Fulton County, Georgia, on behalf of the
                    parents of a 48-year-old Missouri schoolteacher, Freda Kay Hall. Ms. Hall
                    died in August 1996 when the left rear tire on her Bronco II lost its
                    tread as she drove on a highway near Tallapoosa, Ga., causing the
                    vehicle to roll over.

                    Continental officials stated in a 1999 deposition that the replacement
                    program didn't deal with anything the NHTSA was requesting.
                    Continental's Mr. Hollnagel said Tuesday, "It was clearly not requested in
                    writing of us to give them any of that information." Mr. Hollnagel did
                    confirm, however, that Continental replaced Big O's unsold inventory of
                    the tires in question, but didn't consider it a recall because it didn't
                    involve customer safety.

                    James Pascover, a spokesman for TBC Corp., the parent company of
                    Big O Tires, said TBC only recently learned of the 1993 investigation and
                    that the company would cooperate with any NHTSA queries.

                    Michael Brownlee, the former head of NHTSA's Office of Defects
                    Investigation, is quoted in the same court documents saying he
                    wouldn't have closed the 1993 investigation had he known more about
                    Continental's efforts to replace the product. Mr. Brownlee, now an
                    auto-safety consultant, said Tuesday that Continental's replacement
                    program "sounds very much like a recall, and they probably should have
                    reported it to NHTSA."

                    Lance Cooper, an attorney in Marietta, Ga., who represents four families
                    including the Halls, said he is aware of 34 claims involving these
                    Continental tires on Bronco IIs.

                    Like the incidents involving the recalled Firestone tires, most of the
                    accidents and fatalities occurred in warm-weather states: California,
                    Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

                    Also, there is some indication, according to court documents, that the
                    two steel belts inside the tires separated from each other because of
                    problems with the skim stock, which is essentially the glue that holds
                    the steel belts together.

                    Write to Clare Ansberry at, Timothy Aeppel at
           and Stephen Power at