June 13, 2001

Tire Threat: The Road to Recall

Ford Accuses Venezuelan Agency Of Using Inaccurate Safety Data

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Ford Motor Co. officials Tuesday accused Venezuela's consumer protection agency of using an inaccurate list of accidents to raise doubts about the safety of Ford Explorers.

Indecu, as the agency is known, claimed last month that design flaws in Explorers may have caused 50 accidents since August, when the auto maker refitted 30,000 Explorers with different tires.

But Ford Director of Sales Hector Rodriguez claimed that 13 of those accidents were "simple crashes" and not rollovers, as Indecu suggested. At least three accidents didn't involve Explorers, and four were listed twice.

Mr. Rodriguez said Ford obtained the list from a secondary source he declined to name and researched the accidents by tracing the license plates.

"Obviously, this makes us suspicious about the list," Mr. Rodriguez said.

Indecu officials didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone are mired in a public feud over whether design flaws in Explorers or "tread separation" in Firestone's Wilderness tires -- or both -- were to blame for accidents that killed at least 46 people in Venezuela.

Indecu blamed both companies and accused them of suppressing information about the allegedly faulty products. The attorney general's office and congress are investigating Indecu's claim.

Bridgestone/Firestone subsidiary chief Humberto Gomez said the continuing accidents showed his company's tires weren't to blame.