Inside the Ford/Firestone Fight - TIME
OPINION: Relationship Lessons From The Ford-Firestone Breakup. * To An Outside Observer, It Looked As If The Ford-Firestone. Relationship Was On Autopilot. s Firestone unit today ended its tire-supplier relationship with Ford Motor Co., citing safety concerns about the Ford Explorer SUV. John T. Lampe, president. AKRON (June 6, )—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s decision May 21 to stop doing business with Ford Motor Co. in the Americas ends one of corporate America's longest business partnerships. The two companies began working together 95 years ago when Henry Ford's auto company.
Many of the problem tires were manufactured there from towhen the plant's United Rubber Workers union was on strike and replacement workers were running the line.
Underinflation and high temperatures also could have been factors in any failure of the tires. Firestone officials say they are still studying Ford's analysis of their complaint data. They add that they do not believe the strike affected the quality of the Decatur plant's output.
Ford-Firestone 'marriage' on the rocks - knifedirectory.info
Workers have been more blunt. Many have said that design or engineering flaws may have contributed to tire failures - and that Ford helped Firestone engineers on the tires' designs. Auto-safety activists in Washington agree to some extent with the Firestone workers.
Any quality problems at Decatur would have affected the plant's entire output, says Mr. Ditlow - not just certain models.
And he says that during the design process for the tires at issue, Ford urged they be made to produce a softer ride, to mask sport-utility vehicles' truck heritage. A run on tires Meanwhile, details of the recall itself - the second-largest tire recall in history - are causing consternation across the country.
Ford and Firestone are trying to give higher priority to the hot-weather states where tire failures have been concentrated. But worried consumers are flooding Ford dealers and Firestone stores throughout the nation, due to the widespread publicity given the recall.
And some plaintiffs' lawyers and consumer activists are calling for the recall to be expanded to include all and inch Wilderness AT tires, made in all Firestone factories. Ford and Firestone officials say they are simply trying to steer their limited available quantity of replacement tires to the most affected areas, to maximize safety gains. A previous massive recall in so weakened the firm that it did not recover until Bridgestone bought it a decade later.
Follow TIME In the most spectacular corporate crack-up in recent memory, consumers hardly knew whom to trust or root for last week. Firestone admitted that those tires were no good but maintains that everything else on the road today is safe. Ford doesn't see it that way. Declared Ford boss Jacques Nasser: Previously undisclosed memos and e-mails show the extent to which the engineers were juggling decisions about the Explorer's suspension systems, tire pressure, weight and steering characteristics, plus its height and width, all of which could factor into a vehicle's stability.
State and federal investigators as well as attorneys for the victims of Explorer rollovers are cheered by the split, because it will enable them to pit one company against the other in court.
Accidents involving Firestone-equipped Explorers have accounted for most of the at least deaths and more than injuries that prompted Firestone to recall its in. SUV tires last year. Moreover, Representative Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican, plans to hold hearings this summer on the way "this whole mess started and why we didn't hear about it until people started dying. Says attorney general Bob Butterworth: The problem you have here is lawyers and the marketing department overruled the safety recommendations of engineers.Ford and Firestone: What Went Wrong?
Wilderness AT tires produced at its plant in Decatur, Ill. Wilderness tires produced at all Firestone factories. Many of the accidents occurred in hot regions, such as Florida and Texas and the Middle East. And no one denies that SUVs roll over more frequently than traditional autos.
But that's pretty much it for points of agreement. Ford insists that Explorers fitted with Goodyear tires have experienced far fewer tread problems than those equipped with Firestones. Firestone retorts that the same tire that shreds on an Explorer holds up just fine on a Ford Ranger.
One conclusion stands out amid all the examples of mutually assured destruction: And these products share a heritage, since Firestone customized the Wilderness AT tires for the Explorer to Ford's specifications. No company sets out to design an unsafe vehicle. But creating a car always involves making trade-offs among engineering, manufacturing, safety, sales and advertising components as well as responding to consumer and competitive pressures.
It is a wildly expensive process that takes five years or so to complete.
FIRESTONE ENDS RELATIONSHIP WITH FORD
Engineers were concerned from the get-go about the Explorer's stability during emergency handling procedures. Of course, prototypes are early versions of vehicles that are built so that designers can get the bugs out. And Ford says it got the bugs out. It's not a particularly safe class, compared with cars. The Explorer had a lower rate of fatal accidents from to than 9 of 11 other SUVs.
Of the most popular models, the Explorer came in two spots ahead of the Chevy Blazer but behind the Jeep Cherokee and the top-ranked Grand Cherokee. Honda's Passport was last. In developing the Explorer, Ford's engineers were constrained from the start by previous decisions that locked the SUV onto a narrow truck frame and into a front-end suspension that was designed in the s. As early asa Ford memo warned that "light-truck rollovers are 2 to 4 times the car rate" and urged Explorer developers to consider "any design action that improves vehicle stability or helps maintain the passenger safety in the vehicle.
Ford-Firestone 'marriage' on the rocks
Both vehicles used a unique "Twin I-Beam" suspension that raised their center of gravity by placing crisscrossing beams atop one another between the front tires. The company marketed I-Beam directly to consumers, since it had been used on the original and highly popular Bronco. But the Bronco II became a nightmare for Ford, which by the late s faced more than lawsuits that stemmed from accidents involving rollovers.