Expert “Was Aware Of Firestone Problems In 1999”
Bridgestone/Firestone hired tyre expert Sanjay Govindjee to investigate possible causes of failure of tyres involved in the current recall. He recently reported that he had found cracks in the “belt skim” – the rubber compound used to bond steel belts – in many of the tyres studied. However, Rex Grogan, the UK-based tyre analyst, said that he had warned of exactly the same problem in a lecture he gave in April 1999.
Govindjee has told Bridgestone/Firestone that “All evidence points to a slowly developing fatigue crack that propagates through the belt wedge material and subsequently into the belt skim between the steel belts. At some stage the cracks reach a critical size and the tyres fail.” This, says Grogan, is what he found nearly eighteen months ago.
Grogan blamed the fault on Firestone’s use of inexperienced workers during a labour dispute at the Decatur, Illinois factory and has suggested that materials used were either inferior quality or improperly handled. William “Max” Nonnamaker, President of an Akron-based consultancy, agrees, saying that the Firestone workers were forced to use drier setup stock, which would not form a proper chemical bonding of the belts, leading to separations. Releasing Govindjee’s findings is the first information from Bridgestone/Firestone regarding possible faults and causes.