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Firestone tires, models ATX, ATXII and Wilderness, manufactured by Bridgestone/Firestone are subject to tread separations, primarily and particularly those tires sold on Ford Explorers. Some tires have separated that have been in use for less than 2,000 miles and have demonstrated failures at speeds as low as 20 miles per hour, indicating a major flaw in Firestone’s basic design, materials, manufacturing process, or quality control. Because the greater majority of defective tires have been installed on Ford Explorers, damage caused by Ford’s installation procedures and the specific origin of these tire lots is suspect.

The failures have triggered a national investigation by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Under federal regulations, Ford, Firestone and its parent company Bridgestone/Firestone now are required to provide detailed answers to inquiries by NHTSA safety investigators, usually within 30 days of NHTSA’s demand for information. When property manufactured, inflated tires on wheels are among the strongest components on vehicles and are capable of absorbing thousands of pounds of impact, without deflating. Reports of tires explosions are always associated with structural failures, such as bead failure, mismatch of tire and wheel size, delamination or impact with heavy debris.

The suspect Firestone tires have been installed on new SUVs and pick-up trucks sold by Ford, GM, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. When failure occurs on these vehicles, high centers of gravity common on SUVs cause them to roll. In some cases, the tread separates from the tire frame, but the tire remains inflated. An underinflated tire and a tire without proper sidewall rigidity can contribute and cause vehicle instability and rollover potential, making these tires very hazardous. For more information about SUVs and rollover problems.

Ford recognizes there is a serious problem with these tires because it has recalled and replaced Firestone tires on cars that it sold in Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia. As of August 3, 2000 Ford had not done so in the United States. Apparently, other markets are more important to Ford than American consumers when compared to the cost of replacement. No doubt, Ford’s contract with Bridgestone/Firestone provides for full reimbursement to Ford for the cost of the tires so that all that Ford is weighing is the cost of removal and replacement by its nationwide chain of dealers. Ford pays a much lower rate for garage and mechanics services to its dealers than is paid by the public, but the hundreds of thousands of Ford Explorers on U.S. roads is most probably the stumbling block in this dollars driven decision-making process. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration began an investigation of these tires in May, 2000 after nearly 200 complaints and more than 30 death had been report when the tires delaminated and pitched vehicles into dangerous rollovers at highway speeds. Rollovers are the most deadly highway events and despite that fact, roofs remain the least crashworthy part of all vehicles. Highway failures plagued Firestone’s 500 model tire in the 1980s and separations of the tread from the tire carcass were responsible for numerous collisions, injuries and deaths, resulting in a national recall.

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