CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan authorities Monday said they have
new evidence that Ford Explorers and Bridgestone/Firestone tires have
design defects that may have been a factor in 46 fatal road accidents
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co.'s Venezuela unit
stepped up a publicity campaign to convince
Venezuelans that Explorers are safe and only
Firestone tires are to blame for the accidents.
Samuel Ruh, the president of Venezuela's consumer protection agency,
said he handed over to the attorney general Monday new evidence of
defects in the Explorer's suspension system and shocks. He said he
also submitted new proof of flaws in the design of Firestone tires.
He declined to give details on the content of the new evidence, saying
he didn't want to obstruct the attorney general's investigation.
Tread separation, blowouts and rollover crashes involving vehicles with
Firestone tires have been linked to deaths in the U.S. and Venezuela.
Many of the crashes involved the popular Ford Explorer.
Both the automaker and the tire manufacturer have been criticized for
not immediately reporting problems or taking action at the first signs of
Ford released a television ad over the weekend in which the president of
the automaker's Venezuelan subsidiary, Emmanuel Cassigena, appeared
defending the safety of Explorers. The ad, aired by several local
networks, showed a pile of thousands of Firestone tires that Ford has
replaced on Explorers for free in a customer satisfaction program
started in May.
"You can have total confidence in your vehicle," Mr. Cassigena told
Venezuelans in the ad. "We won't rest until we have replaced all of the
Ford maintains that a manufacturing defect in Firestone's
Venezuela-made tires is to blame for "tread separation," which the
automaker says was the "common factor" in Explorer accidents here.
Bridgestone/Firestone, a unit of Bridgestone Corp., denies that the
Venezuelan-made tires are defective and has suggested that flaws in
the Explorer's suspension system may have caused the tread
The tire company hasn't 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.
The consumer protection agency, Indecu, says both companies have a
"shared responsibility" for the accidents. The attorney general's office is
investigating both companies for criminal negligence.
Indecu's Mr. Ruh rejected Ford's argument that they were "deceived" by
"The more they insist to the public that they were misled, the more they
admit that they are responsible. ... If they were deceived it's simply
because their quality control [system] didn't function," Mr. Ruh said.