June 22, 2001

                    Tire Threat: The Road to Recall

                    Ford Analyzes Data Concerning Safety Of Tires Chosen to Replace Firestones

                    By JOSEPH B. WHITE and TIMOTHY AEPPEL
                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said it is analyzing data from U.S. Rep.
                    W.J. "Billy" Tauzin concerning tires the company is using to replace
                    Firestone tires that it has deemed unsafe. But the auto maker
                    declined to identify those models that the congressman said could
                    be less reliable than the Firestones.

                    The uncertainty has left consumers to guess, for now, which of
                    about 60 replacement tires identified on Ford's consumer Web site
                    might be the one Mr. Tauzin says has an inordinately high rate of
                    tread-separation of 124 per million tires. The confusion also has
                    brought the Ford-Firestone controversy to an impasse.

                    Ford Vice President for Safety and Environmental Engineering Sue
                    Cischke said in a statement Thursday that Ford will carry on with its
                    program to replace 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires, at a
                    cost to Ford of $3 billion, while the company analyzes "the raw
                    data" supplied by the staff of Mr. Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana
                    who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

                    Mr. Tauzin's spokesman, Ken Johnson, said the congressman has
                    sent Ford data suggesting that 11 of the replacement tires have
                    tread-separation rates higher than five per million -- the figure Ford
                    has cited as a benchmark based on data supplied to Ford by the
                    NHTSA. Ford officials have questioned the quality of the data Mr.
                    Tauzin's staff collected, and Mr. Tauzin has qualified his questions by
                    saying an investigation is needed to determine whether his data are

                    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also evaluating
                    the data. After initially promising to deliver preliminary answers on
                    the potential safety hazard within a day, the NHTSA now is expected
                    to take closer to 30 days.

                    Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. said Thursday it had supplied data to
                    Mr. Tauzin's committee showing that its light truck tires hadn't been
                    linked to a single injury or fatality due to a quality failure. A
                    Goodyear tire was one of two named by an aide to Mr. Tauzin as
                    being on the committee's list. Continental AG, maker of the second
                    tire, said it is working with Ford to clear up any questions.

                    Meanwhile, NHTSA tire-safety experts are under pressure to say
                    within a month whether any more Firestone tires should be recalled,
                    since Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael P. Jackson declared
                    publicly to Mr. Tauzin's committee at a congressional hearing this
                    week that the agency could meet that deadline. That investigation
                    stemmed from a recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires last summer.

                    But there are serious doubts as to whether the NHTSA can wind up
                    its investigation so quickly. The agency hasn't finished testing the
                    tires. It must also get clearance from a panel of internal supervisors,
                    then the administrator. It must also give Firestone 10 days to
                    respond to any proposal for a broader recall. If Firestone won't
                    comply, the NHTSA has to apply for an "initial determination" by the
                    secretary of the Department of Transportation that a recall is
                    warranted. If the secretary agrees, there must be a hearing with
                    both sides and only then does the order come down to begin a

                    The complexity of the task underscores the broader problem Ford
                    and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. face as they battle to win over public
                    opinion and influence the actions of regulators and law makers.

                    Federal officials have now counted 203 deaths linked to accidents
                    involving sudden tread separations on Firestone Wilderness AT, ATX
                    and ATX II tires. Many of those fatalities involved Ford Explorers that
                    rolled over after losing their tire treads.

                    Ford's position is that the fault lies solely with the tires. Firestone
                    counters that it recalled last summer 6.5 million tires that had
                    problems, and charges that now Ford wants it to recall millions more
                    tires that are good to deflect attention from handling problems with
                    the Explorer.

                    Any broadening of the recall would devastate Firestone, the U.S. unit
                    of Japan's Bridgestone Corp. At this point, Ford has to pay the tab
                    for its replacement program, but if the previous recall is expanded by
                    a federal agency, Firestone would have to cover the costs to replace
                    any recalled tires.

                    "We're certainly awaiting NHTSA's final review. But we believe the
                    data are very clear: The tires are safe and are performing at
                    world-class levels," said Firestone spokeswoman Jill Bratina.

                    Write to Joseph White at joseph.white@wsj.com and Timothy
                    Aeppel at timothy.aeppel@wsj.com