Firestone Nears Completion of Recall, But Probe Hasn't Determined Problem
                    October 24, 2000

                    By TODD ZAUN
                    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    TOKYO -- More than two months into its recall of 6.5 million tires,
                    Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has found "no major problems" with its
                    tire-production methods or quality control in an internal investigation,
                    the president of Firestone's Japanese parent company said Monday.

                                         Bridgestone Corp. President Yoichiro Kaizaki
                                         said Firestone expects to finish its U.S. tire
                                         recall by the end of November. The tires,
                                         mounted mostly on Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer
                                         sport-utility vehicle, have been linked to
                    accidents that claimed at least 160 lives world-wide, though the cause
                    of these accidents remains unclear.

                    Mr. Kaizaki said company investigators haven't uncovered any single
                    cause for the tire failures. Rather, he said, the investigation, still under
                    way, would likely find that a complex mix of factors -- such as improper
                    tire pressure, poor maintenance and the way the tires performed on the
                    Explorers -- contributed to the failures. In pointing to such factors as
                    the likely culprits, Mr. Kaizaki was deflecting Ford's contention that the
                    tires themselves are to blame, not the design of its vehicles. Ford
                    officials couldn't be reached for comment, but the auto maker has said
                    repeatedly that there are no safety problems with the design of the

                    Firestone has hired an independent tire expert, Sanjay Govindjee, an
                    associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, to pinpoint
                    the cause of the tire failures. Mr. Kaizaki said he asked Mr. Govindjee to
                    complete his probe as soon as possible. Mr. Govindjee said last week
                    that he expects a final report by early next year.

                    Bridgestone/Firestone has already replaced 4.2 million of the recalled
                    tires and expects to finish the recall sometime next month, Mr. Kaizaki
                    said. The tire maker originally said it would complete the recall by the
                    middle of next year but has moved its target ahead amid a storm of bad
                    publicity surrounding the crisis.

                    Mr. Kaizaki refused to comment on evidence of a growing rift between
                    Firestone and Ford, which has maintained throughout the crisis that the
                    problem is with the tires. But he was careful throughout the 30-minute
                    news conference not to directly criticize the auto maker -- one of
                    Firestone's biggest customers.

                    Bridgestone and Ford have "a slight difference of opinion" on whether
                    the problem is entirely with the tires, Mr. Kaizaki said.

                    Mr. Kaizaki said it was too early to tell how much the recall would cost.
                    Bridgestone hasn't any plans now to make a charge against earnings
                    beyond the $350 million special charge it posted in August to cover
                    costs incurred in the recall.

                    Bridgestone's shares have declined 60% since the recall was announced
                    in early August. The crisis prompted the resignation of
                    Bridgestone/Firestone's chief executive and the layoff of hundreds of
                    U.S. factory workers as the company cut production.

                    Mr. Kaizaki refused to comment on whether other managers should
                    share blame for the problem and said he had no intention himself of
                    stepping down to take responsibility -- a common move by leaders of
                    companies in crisis in Japan. "Rebuilding this company is my biggest
                    responsibility," Mr. Kaizaki said.

                    Write to Todd Zaun at