New Firestone Chief Lampe Is Likely To Focus on Racing, Boosting Sales
                    October 11, 2000

                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    First came the recall. Now, the attempted revival. The recipe?
                    Replacement tires and racing.

                                         With Tuesday's appointment of John Lampe as
                                         Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s chairman, chief
                                         executive and president, the company is seeking
                                         to shake off the paralysis that has gripped it
                                         since its Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million tires. The
                    recalled tires have been linked to 101 deaths in the U.S. and more than
                    50 overseas, mostly involving Ford Motor Co.'s popular Explorer
                    sport-utility vehicles. Mr. Lampe succeeds the embattled Masatoshi Ono,
                    who is returning to Bridgestone Corp. after nearly 10 years at its U.S.

                    The 53-year-old Mr. Lampe, previously executive vice president, is the
                    first American to head Bridgestone Corp.'s U.S. tire-making unit. The
                    company's Tokyo headquarters also picked a well-regarded senior vice
                    president and board member, Isao Togashi, to serve as the unit's No. 2
                    executive. In his new role as chief overseer of manufacturing and quality
                    control, Mr. Togashi, 58, has a mandate from Bridgestone's
                    tough-talking chief executive, Yoichiro Kaizaki, to fix operating problems
                    at the company's U.S. unit and impose strict production standards.

                    It isn't clear how much autonomy Mr. Kaizaki will
                    give his new American CEO, who isn't a Bridgestone
                    Corp. board member. But if the recent past is any
                    indicator, he will allow Messrs. Lampe and Togashi
                    considerable latitude in running
                    Bridgestone/Firestone, though probably not as
                    much as he gave Mr. Ono in recent years.
                    Americans who worked for Mr. Kaizaki during his
                    own days at Bridgestone/Firestone say he put a lot
                    of trust in his subordinates.

                    "Mr. Kaizaki and I have an understanding that I am
                    going to be running this company as CEO," Mr.
                    Lampe said Tuesday. "I told Mr. Kaizaki the only
                    way I can successfully run this company is that if I have that total
                    responsibility and am empowered to make decisions."

                                      Mr. Lampe's strategy is expected to borrow a page
                                      from Mr. Kaizaki's playbook. After arriving in the
                                      U.S. in the 1990s to rehabilitate a Firestone brand
                                      that had languished since a big 1978 recall, Mr.
                                      Kaizaki's solution was to boost sales through
                                      dealerships and use auto racing to spruce up the
                                      brand's image. For Mr. Lampe, another major
                                      priority will be to minimize the loss of Firestone's
                                      original-equipment business with car makers.

                                      Firestone, which is bracing to lose all of its business
                                      with Ford, is expected to use its strong retail
                                      presence to start rebuilding the market share it has
                                      lost amid the recall. In addition to operating the
                    nation's biggest network of company-owned tire stores -- at more than
                    1,500 locations -- Firestone also sells tires through affiliated dealers
                    that carry a variety of brands and big retail chains, such as Sears,
                    Roebuck & Co. In all, Firestone estimates that about 13,000 retail
                    outlets carry its replacement tires.

                    That market will be crucial for the tire maker now that its prospects of
                    making big sales to auto makers have dimmed. Ford has already lined
                    up rival suppliers, France's Groupe Michelin and Goodyear Tire & Rubber
                    Co., to provide tires for its Explorers and other vehicles. In a recent
                    interview with a Japanese business magazine, Bridgestone's Mr. Kaizaki
                    conceded that "we might lose" the Ford business, which represents
                    about $350 million in annual sales for the company's U.S. unit.
                    Firestone's total sales in 1999 were $7.5 billion.

                    But Ford is only part of Firestone's problem. Other car makers are
                    likewise approaching its competitors to supply their new vehicles, fearing
                    that consumers will be turned off by the name Firestone on the sidewall.
                    At least one Japanese maker, Toyota Motor Corp., has been in touch
                    with Firestone competitors.

                    A Toyota spokesman in New York says there is a possibility that "our
                    procurement people on the ground might have contacted Goodyear and
                    others to check them with their supply abilities," but that he couldn't
                    confirm whether Toyota had actually done that or not. Toshiaki "Tag"
                    Taguchi, the highest-ranking Toyota executive in North America, says
                    Toyota will continue to buy tires from Firestone as long as the tire
                    maker can meet Toyota's standards for quality, cost and delivery. "We
                    don't believe it's necessary at least at this point to phase out Firestone
                    as a supplier," he says.

                    Mr. Taguchi says the most pressing issue Firestone has to resolve is to
                    win back the trust of consumers the tire maker has lost recently.
                    Firestone's recall, he says, is not only a problem affecting Firestone and
                    Ford alone but an issue affecting the entire auto industry. "We want
                    Firestone to quickly settle the tire problems and regain the consumer's
                    trust for automobiles as a whole," he says.

                    One way to do that is to leverage an asset not directly tarnished by the
                    recall: Firestone's auto-racing program, which also happens to be the
                    pet project of Mr. Kaizaki.

                    Al Speyer, Firestone's motor-sports director, says the company is
                    "brainstorming" about ways it will use motor sport to rebuild its image.
                    He says many drivers and team owners have come to Firestone,
                    volunteering to help them by giving testimonials. Once the recall is
                    complete, possibly by the end of November, Mr. Speyer says he expects
                    to see Firestone launch an advertising campaign centered on auto

                    The company is even considering seeking out one or more drivers to
                    serve as spokesmen. One idea is to integrate the company's message
                    into "The Road to Indy," a weekly TV program that runs during the
                    months leading up to the Indianapolis 500 in late May. Firestone is also
                    considering linking such promotions with its local tire stores. For
                    example, drivers might be brought to specific retail stores to talk about
                    the tires they use on their racing vehicles, as well as their personal

                    While some racing-team owners and drivers wonder whether Firestone
                    will cut back on its participation as a result of the recall or whether
                    Firestone can afford the huge costs, Mr. Kaizaki said last week that
                    Bridgestone will continue to sponsor auto racing. "Bridgestone
                    absolutely will rebuild Firestone, and we want to regain the trust of our
                    customers as quickly as possible. To that end, we will continue to fully
                    participate in Formula 1 and CART-series motor sports," Mr. Kaizaki said
                    at a news conference before the Japanese Grand Prix Formula One race.

                    Mr. Lampe's first act as Firestone CEO Tuesday was to express regret
                    about the incidents that led to the company's recall. "We can debate
                    over cause and responsibility for there is much that is not known. But
                    that does not change the fact that there have been tragic accidents,
                    and for this I am deeply sorry," he said.

                    But "to say our tires are the only reasons for a Ford Explorer accident
                    and rollover is very unfair," Mr. Lampe added later, taking a direct jab at
                    the auto maker. He said that tire manufacturers and vehicle makers
                    must work together to gain a better understanding of how their
                    products interact, in order to make those products safer and more

                    The new CEO and his lieutenant, Mr. Togashi, are likely to operate as a
                    team. Look for Mr. Lampe to play point man in trying to resuscitate the
                    company's marketing operation, dealing with the U.S. government's
                    investigation of the tire crisis and working to win back public confidence.
                    That would free Mr. Togashi to bring Firestone's factories and
                    technology up to parent-company standards, and close down any
                    troubled operations.

                    Mr. Lampe says his top priority is accelerating the recall effort by
                    increasing the company's production of replacement tires, and he
                    disclosed Tuesday that Firestone's decision to speed up the recall would
                    require it to take an additional $100 million charge on top of the $350
                    million charge it had previously announced. He also intends to establish
                    a new method for examining product-performance data, addressing
                    criticism that the company seemed unaware of quality problems with its
                    tires despite mounting numbers of complaints over the past several

                    Mr. Lampe's fortunes at Firestone have risen in direct proportion to the
                    fall of his predecessor Mr. Ono, under whose tenure Firestone fumbled
                    its initial handling of the tire recall. At first the company said it would
                    recall the tires in stages, meaning some consumers would have to wait
                    almost a year for replacements. It also repeatedly blamed drivers and
                    external factors for its tires' failures and denied that it had been aware
                    of any problems with the tires.

                    The one experience that more than any other turned Bridgestone Japan
                    against the Ono team came on a night last month when top
                    Bridgestone executives huddled in a war room at their Tokyo
                    headquarters. They watched on TV through the wee hours and into the
                    next day as Mr. Ono struggled through testimony before the U.S.
                    Congress, following the back and forth through a Japanese-language
                    interpreter. Mr. Lampe, by contrast, stood up to questions and
                    managed to deflect some of the pressure onto Ford for the first time
                    since the crisis began.

                    Even before this latest crisis, Mr. Lampe had demonstrated his ability to
                    handle pressure. In 1994, after the gruesome death of a worker in an
                    industrial accident at the Oklahoma City plant of Firestone's Dayton
                    unit, which Mr. Lampe oversaw, the Clinton administration sought to
                    make an example of the operation. Then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich
                    descended personally on the Oklahoma City plant, among other things
                    hand-delivering a stack of papers alleging 107 safety violations at the
                    plant. Mr. Lampe rushed back from a trade show in Minneapolis to deal
                    with the crisis. The crackdown eventually fizzled, partly as a result of a
                    backlash among the unit's officials and workers against the
                    government's heavy-handed tactics.

                    Those who know Mr. Lampe say his tough manner helped deflect the
                    heat. "He's the kind of person who stands up to such storms; he's not
                    intimidated or scared," says Sunil Kumar, a former Firestone executive
                    who now works in the chemicals industry. "He's sufficiently assertive,
                    which is what you need to be effective as an American manager in a
                    Japanese company."

                    Mr. Lampe built his career in sales, joining the company in 1974 as an
                    international trainee. Along the way, he developed a strong global
                    background, putting in stints for the tire maker in Singapore, Denmark,
                    Costa Rica and Brazil. He is credited with rebuilding Firestone's Dayton
                    tire brand, which he managed as president from 1991 to 1995. In this
                    role, he helped implement a key aspect of Bridgestone's U.S. strategy.
                    Part of Bridgestone's plan after it bought Firestone in 1988 was to
                    develop a multilevel approach to the tire market. Bridgestone is the
                    premium brand, while Firestone is the middle-tier name and Dayton
                    serves as the value brand.

                    During Mr. Lampe's tenure at Dayton, the brand's market share grew
                    steadily, and Mr. Kaizaki put him in charge of the replacement market
                    for Firestone-brand tires as a promotion. "He's got the trust of
                    independent Firestone retailers, and that's irreplaceable," says the
                    former colleague.

                    While Mr. Lampe will handle the front end of business, Mr. Togashi will
                    have a greater hand in running Firestone's technology, particularly in
                    bringing Firestone's U.S. factories more into line with the higher
                    standards of Bridgestone's Japanese operation. In an interview with The
                    Wall Street Journal last month, Mr. Kaizaki suggested he regretted not
                    having modernized the equipment Bridgestone inherited at Firestone
                    plants when Bridgestone purchased the U.S. company, though he was
                    careful to note that the tire recall "wasn't at all a result of economizing"
                    on investment.

                    Mr. Togashi has been Bridgestone's key man for opening shop overseas
                    as the head of an International Technical Headquarters division at
                    Bridgestone in Tokyo. One project he oversaw is a $435 million plant
                    Firestone opened in South Carolina in the mid-1990s.

                    Some operations, such as Firestone's Decatur, Ill., plant are likely to be
                    closed or severely downsized. Not only is the Decatur plant one of
                    Firestone's oldest -- it is also the one cited as a source of many of the
                    tires subject to the current recall. "They have other plants that are
                    more efficient," says Trevor Hoskins, a former public-relations chief for

                    As head of quality assurance, Mr. Togashi will be pushing for controls
                    that make it easier for information about tire-failure claims to be shared
                    within the corporation and conveyed back to Japan quickly.

                    It was Mr. Kaizaki who set up Firestone's current highly decentralized
                    structure. In the early 1990s, he established the 21 operating
                    companies that spread operational decision-making power among a
                    large group of executives. One former executive said that while there
                    was coordination between U.S. and Japanese manufacturing and
                    technology departments, there was less so elsewhere. "Other areas,
                    such as public relations,. legal, technical service, were the weakest sides
                    of the interaction."

                    Mr. Lampe said Tuesday that the 21-company concept was wonderful in
                    the 1990s. "But it's difficult to have leadership and direction when you
                    have 21 people reporting to you," he said.

                    Write to Timothy Aeppel at, Norihiko Shirouzu
                    at and Michael Williams at