Firestone Refuses to Meet Victims, Says It Can't Be Blamed for Crashes
                    October 5, 2000

                    Associated Press

                    CARACAS, Venezuela -- Bridgestone/Firestone Corp. refused to attend
                    a government-arranged meeting Wednesday with victims of accidents
                    involving Firestone tire failures on Ford Explorers, saying it cannot be
                    blamed for the vehicles' going out of control.

                                         Ford Motor Co.'s Venezuelan subsidiary did
                                         send representatives to the meeting, and
                                         offered to set up a committee to negotiate
                                         compensation for victims. Ford said it felt "as
                                         betrayed as the Venezuelan people" by
                    Firestone, which it said hid information about tire problems.

                    The meeting with some 50 victims, called by Venezuela's
                    consumer-protection agency, quickly became the latest battleground for
                    what has become an open war between the two companies over who is
                    to blame for at least 150 fatal crashes worldwide involving Firestone
                    tires. In many cases the tires were on Explorers.

                    Ford contends that tread is peeling off the Firestone tires, causing
                    vehicles to crash. Firestone contends that the Explorer is unstable and
                    that its suspension system may have contributed to tire failure, charges
                    Ford disputes.

                    Although summoned by the government agency, Bridgestone/Firestone
                    declined. To attend "would imply an admission of guilt that is not ours,"
                    according to Ana Cecilia Colmenarez, legal director for the company's
                    subsidiary in Venezuela.

                    Bridgestone/Firestone "has emphatically maintained it has no
                    responsibility" for the accidents, she told the agency's director, Samuel
                    Ruh, in a letter.

                    Ms. Colmenarez said the tire company was cooperating with a
                    government investigation into the cause of tire blowouts, allowing a
                    prosecutor to visit a tire plant in the city of Valencia on Wednesday.

                    The consumer-protection agency's legal adviser, Steleo Pebreanez, said
                    Bridgestone's absence "implies they have no desire to reach a

                    He said the companies must cooperate in reaching a settlement with
                    victims, or would face fines of up to $11,600 for each victim. The
                    government wants both companies to compensate a total of 104
                    victims for deaths, injuries and damage to vehicles.

                    Japan's Bridgestone Corp., the parent of Bridgestone/Firestone, posted
                    18.90 billion yen, or $172.8 million, in profits for the six months ended
                    June 30. During the same period, Ford earned $1.5 billion on revenue of
                    $87.4 billion.

                    Ford sent lawyers, its purchasing manager and about 50 mechanics to
                    the meeting.

                    Andres Mezgradis, legal counsel for Ford of Venezuela, urged the
                    accident victims to work with a Ford committee on quickly determining
                    compensation, arguing that lawsuits could take years to resolve.

                    In a prepared statement, Ford legal director Irene de Fuentes said that
                    "as a serious company," Ford believed that reaching settlements "is the
                    best way to help those affected by the problems associated with
                    Firestone tires."

                    Ford also gave the government test results that "confirmed the stability
                    and maneuverability of Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles," said Ford
                    sales director Hector Rodriguez.

                    "We all know that the problem is with the tires," Mr. Rodriguez said.

                    "In 1999, while Firestone was assuring us that the tires had no
                    problems, they were secretly compiling information and data about
                    defective tires," Mr. Rodriguez said. "Firestone didn't give us all the
                    information and we feel as betrayed as the Venezuelan people. It's time
                    that Firestone assumes its responsibility and indemnify victims."

                    Venezuela's Congress is also looking into the controversy, and two
                    accident victims gave brief testimony before a panel that oversees
                    transportation issues. The panel planned to summon the local
                    company's leaders, Jorge Gonzalez of Firestone and Emanuel
                    Cassingena of Ford, to testify Oct. 11.

                    Tread separation, blowouts and rollover crashes involving vehicles with
                    Firestone tires have been linked to 101 deaths in the United States and
                    46 in Venezuela. In the United States, 6.5 million Firestone tires have
                    been recalled.

                    In Venezuela, Ford began replacing Bridgestone/Firestone tires on its
                    Explorers in Venezuela for free in May. Bridgestone/Firestone has not
                    issued a recall but has agreed to replace up to 62,000 mislabeled
                    Venezuelan tires upon customer request. Tires mislabeled as having an
                    extra nylon safety layer will be replaced with tires having the layer.