Tough Time For Ford And Firestone At Congressional Hearing
It was a rough ride for Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone chiefs Jacques Nasser and John Lampe at the Congressional hearing into the Firestone tyre/Ford Explorer situation. Nasser described the Explorer as “among the safest SUVs on the market” and said that one million tyres had already been replaced. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman ‘Billy’ Tauzin revealed that he had data showing that one of the brands recommended for replacement (he did not say which one) showed a failure rate of 124 per million, which is way ahead of Ford’s recommended rate of five failures per million.
“Are we replacing these tyres with worse tyres?” he asked. Tauzin also said that congressional investigators would scrutinise the tyre replacement plan and report their conclusions in 30 days. Nasser agreed that the recall was very broad, but defended this on the grounds of safety and restoring public confidence.
If problems were found with the recommended replacement tyres, then Ford would act on it, he said, but he was not more specific. He said that this was the first he had heard about the failure data on replacement tyres but, if the facts were correct, 30 days was too long to wait. Nasser also had a swipe at the committee, claiming that, while it had earlier accused Ford of acting too slowly, now it was criticising the company for acting too quickly.
BF Inc. did not escape criticism either, with Tauzin accusing the tyre company of trying to divert attention away from the tyre issue by raising doubts about the safety of the Ford Explorer. The critical issue, he reminded everyone, is the tyre tread separation; it is only when the tread separates that the vehicle’s stability becomes an issue.
For his part, John Lampe claimed that Ford had never handed over data concerning some faulty tyres and again stressed that BF Inc’s own research and tests showed that its tyres only failed at abnormal levels when fitted to Explorers. Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson told the hearing that the investigation into whether to expand the recall of Firestone tyres would be completed by the end of next week and that the results would be made public within a month. He also said that regulators are looking to see whether the Explorer should undergo a formal investigation.