June 3, 2001

Tire Threat: The Road to Recall

Lawyers Ask Federal Court to Order Recall of Four Million Ford Explorers

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Lawyers representing hundreds of people injured or killed in Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone tires have asked a federal judge to force Ford Motor Co. to recall four million of the vehicles.

In papers filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, the lawyers contend that the country's best-selling sport utility vehicle is unsafe and cannot be fixed.

The motion seeks the recall of all Explorers made from the model's introduction in 1990 through model year 2001. It doesn't cover the redesigned 2002 model. The lawyers say Ford should give owners a refund or a replacement truck.

Ford spokesman Jason Vines called the request "frivolous."

"We'd like to see some facts here," he told the Detroit Free Press in Saturday's editions.

Mr. Vines said a decade of accident statistics compiled by the federal government show that the Explorer "has been and continues to be one of the safest vehicles on the road."

The lawyers said their move was prompted by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s request Thursday that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigate the Explorer. The Nashville, Tenn., tire maker said a design defect involving the steering makes many Explorers unsafe.

"We filed this because we're very concerned about the safety of these vehicles," said Irwin Levin, the liaison for the plaintiffs' lawyers in more than 200 personal injury lawsuits against Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone.

"Ford and Firestone have chosen to point their guns at each other, and now they're confirming what we thought all along -- that there are problems with both the tires and the Explorer."

Ford has maintained that the accidents are the result of faulty tires.

Last week, Bridgestone/Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp., ended its nearly 100-year relationship with Ford after the auto maker decided to replace 13 million Firestone tires because of safety reasons on top of the 6.5 million Firestone tires recalled last summer.

The tires are under investigation in at least 174 U.S. traffic deaths and 700 injuries, mostly involving Explorers.

No date was set for a hearing on the motion.