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Chronology of Ford/Firestone Knowledge of Tire Safety Defect

 

Chronology of Firestone/Ford
Knowledge of Tire Safety Defect

 

1987

May 1, 1987 A Ford internal memo states that the stability of the UN46 [Ford Explorer prototype] is worse than Bronco II and that it can be improved by widening, lowering and using a smaller P215 tire.
June 11, 1987 Ford internal memo on a meeting with Firestone reports that the ATX design is approved by Ford.
 

1988

Fall 1988 Ford ADAMS reports states that the Explorer demonstrated "performance issues" at 35 psi but that they expected more favorable results at 26 psi.
November 25, 1988 An internal Ford Test Report shows Explorer lifts two wheels at 55 mph due to high center of gravity, tires and front suspension system.
  1989
1989 Internal Ford document states that the cornering capacity of the Explorer is "[n]ot to exceed current [Bronco II] levels. Limit cornering capacity with larger tires through suspension revisions and tire pressure reduction."

The document further discusses Tire Pressure Reduction: "Engineering has recommended use of tire pressures below maximum allowable inflation levels for all UN46 tires. As described previously, the reduced tire pressures increase understeer and reduce maximum cornering capacity (both 'stabilizing' influences). This practice has been used routinely in heavy duty pick-up truck and car station wagon applications to assure adequate understeer under all loading conditions. Nissan (Pathfinder), Toyota, Chevrolet, and Dodge also reduce tire pressures for selected applications. While we cannot be sure of their reasons, similarities in vehicle loading suggest that maintaining a minimal level of understeer under rear-loaded conditions may be the compelling factor."

January 11, 1989 An internal Ford memo reports a meeting with Firestone to discuss front suspension "jacking" on the Explorer and Bronco II, a phenomena that is "undesirable from a vehicle stability standpoint."
January 26, 1989 In an internal Ford memo, Ford engineers state the design goal [no two wheel lift] has not been met with the P235 ATX tire.
February 9, 1989 Ford hires Arvin Calspan to test the P245 tires. In a letter to James Avouris from George A. Tapia of the Arvin Calspan Tire Research Facility, Tapia reports that "[t]he P245 test tires at the 29 psi pressure condition showed a severe 'tread package' separation from the tire carcass."
February 20, 1989 In an internal Ford memo, Ford engineers recommend use of 26/26 (front/back) psi along with various other spring changes due to stability testing showing two wheel lift with 35 psi.
March 2, 1989 Internal Firestone memo to Ford states that "in light of Ford's decision to specify 26 psi in the P245 tire for the Explorer, Firestone has tested the vehicle at 26 psi front and 35 psi rear" . . . "Calspan testing showed severe tread separation, but our testing used a more realistic procedure and we don't think it will be a problem."
April 5, 1989 An internal Ford memo reports that Consumer's Union told Mr. Sloan, Ford Vice President of Public Relations: "You have a real problem" with your Bronco II.
April 11, 1989 Failure Analysis memo [Roger McCarthy] makes a proposal to Ford's lawyers to conduct Consumer's Union testing.
April 21, 1989 An internal Ford memo from Sloan to upper management (including Red Poling) following meeting with Consumer's Union reports that Ford staff has "clouded their minds."
May 10, 1989 Ford Test Report reveals that J-turn results still show that the Explorer "rolls over" in 5 of 12 tests. Blazer and Bronco II do not roll over.
May 16, 1989 Internal Ford memo emphasizes the importance of how the Explorer performs in the Consumer's Union (avoidance maneuver) test and the need to return to Arizona for more testing.
May 17, 1989 Memo from Ford Truck Operations Management authorizes Consumer's Union testing in Arizona.
May 29, 1989 Internal Ford memo tells management that there is a "risk" that the Explorer "won't pass" the Consumer's Union test.
June 1989 Consumer Reports article tells consumers they should "avoid" the Bronco II.
June 15, 1989 In an internal Ford memo to Truck Operations Managment, Ford engineer Jim Mason recommends design changes to the Explorer:
* Lists eight possible changes
* Analyzes them to show effect on stability index
* Analyzes them with regard to "timing" of Job 1 [they will delay Job 1].
* Indicates Consumers' Union results show Explorer is same as Bronco II
* Says these design changes can make the Explorer as good as Blazer
* Management recommends adopting as many as possible without delaying Job 1.
July 1989 Ford memo indicating that Ford lowered the front of the Explorer half an inch and stiffened the front springs to increase stability.
September 11, 1989 In an internal Ford email to Charles White, Roger Stornant states, "I believe that new info is that our competitors are recognizing CU Test as a requirement and have designed their new utility vehicles to meet. OGC is concerned we will be the only OEM with a vehicle that has a significant chance of failing the CU test. I believe that management is aware of the potential risk w/P235 tires and has accepted risk. CU test is generally unrepresentative of real world and I see no 'real' risk in failing except what may result in wave of spurious litigation."
September 12, 1989 In an internal Ford email to Charles White, Roger F. Stornant expresses that OGC is concerned that the UN46 [Explorer] would fail Consumers Union tests with the P235 tires.

"Based on the variability of the test, as demonstrated by our own drivers, it is possible to pass the CU test with the P235 tires; however, if we were using the CU test as sign-off requirement, we would not accept this combination (P235 ATX & 2dr)."

December 1989 Internal memo states that Explorer with 235 tires set at 26 psi passed the rollover test.
 

1990

February 1990 In order to meet the production deadline, Ford officials rejected some proposals to improve the stability of the Explorer (i.e. widening the track width).
March 1990 JOB 1: '91-'94 Explorer [first date of manufacture].
May 1, 1990 Ford asks Firestone in a letter from Jim Avouris to issue a dealer bulletin regarding tire replacement, emphasizing the importance of using the correct size tire and the correct air pressures on the Explorer [due to rollover sensitivity].
September 12, 1990 In an email from Mazzola (Firestone) to Staples (Ford), Ford requests that Firestone (a) change the tire design to a low rolling resistance polymer and (b) change the tire pressure to 30/35 psi for a 1.6 mpg improvement on CAFE. The question is raised whether air pressure change will affect "vehicle dynamics," [i.e., rollover].
 

1991

February 12, 1991 FILED: Woodburn v. Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.; et al. [injuries unknown]
February 14, 1991 In a memo from Dave Wotton at Ford to Reichenbach at Firestone with tire objectives for the 1995 model Explorer [UN105] shows that the goal is same traction, better rolling resistance and better wear properties. Timing is November 94.
December 19, 1991 Firestone memo from Reichenbach to Gibas at Ford saying it is "increasingly important" that we know whether you will adopt the tire for the Explorer.
 

1992

March 24, 1992 FILED: Johnson v. Nissan, et al. [injuries unknown]
April 23, 1992 FILED: Cherinka v. Ford; et al [Explorer/ATX tread separation; injuries unknown]
 

April 29, 1992

FILED: Roberston v. Firestone/Bridgestone, Inc.; et al. [injuries unknown]
May 10, 1992 Letter from T.A. Mast & R. M. Campbell of Ford to Bridgestone/Firestone, Michelin, Goodyear, and General Tire to revise UPN105 Tire Targets. The primary objectives were to maintain tire wear, traction, and maximize rolling resistance.
June 16, 1992 Internal Ford memo entitled "Targets - UN105" contains: * "CANDIDATE TIRE - P235/75R15 SL ALL TERRAIN OWL"
* "NOTE: Primary importance should be placed on the 67" drum rolling resistance."
* "Tire pressure - 30 PSI for Ranger 4X4"
* "Tire pressure - 26 PSI for Explorer"
August 27, 1992 Memo from J.E. Behr of Firestone to R.D. Bacigalupi, Ford Light Truck Engineering, answering questions from Ford about changing the design of the ATX to use a different tread compound for rolling resistance improvement.
 

1993

September 28, 1993 A memo from Reichenbach at Firestone to Skyner at Ford asks to evaluate a tire wear concern on the 10K testing as the '95 Explorer is exhibiting right front inside shoulder wear.
December 22, 1993 FILED: Blackaller v. Ford; Firestone; et al. [2 injuries, 2 deaths]
 

1994

April 12, 1994 Ford Light Truck Operations Tire Construction Detail Sheet specifies the P235/75R15 tire at a maximum psi of 35.
September 9, 1994 FILED: Dreher v. Ford, et al. [injuries unknown]
1995 Ford/Firestone begins shipping 16" Wilderness tire to Saudi Arabia.
 

1995

February 23, 1995 FILED: Greenwald v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
August 7, 1995 FILED: Ellis v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX; injuries unknown]
August 7, 1995 FILED: Dickson v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation from Wilson, NC plant; injuries unknown]
 

1996

January 4, 1996 FILED: Combs v. Ford [Bronco II/ATX separation; 1 fatality]
March 13, 1996 Welch v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 3 injuries] (incident date)
June 20, 1996 A memo from Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife manager Lowell Whitaker to his regional supervisor describes two blow outs of Firestone tires.
"During the past few months I have been cautioned as a user of Firestone tires by DPS (Departement of Public Safety) that there have been a series of accidents caused by the separation of the tread from the tire on Firestone tires."
July 1996 FILED: Rogers v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 1 injury, 1 fatality]
July 12, 1996 A memo from Deputy Yuma County (Arizona) Attorney John K. White regarding Firestone Firehawk ATX tires reported:
"Some tires of this model have had their tread separate from the body of the tire."
"Firestone is aware of the problem and will be replacing tires where needed. (A shipment of tires is currently on its way for various Sheriff's vehicles.)"
"It is strongly recommended that you do not drive vehicles equipped with these tires at 'freeway speeds' (or at all, if possible) until you have them...evaluated."
July 22, 1996 Letter from Robert J. Descheemaker at the Arizona State Procurement Office to Roger Abrams of Bridgestone/Firestone requesting replacement of all Firehawk ATX tires bought under state contracts.
August 19, 1996 Ford CQIS computer report on Explorer with 20k miles--Colonial Ford dealer in Danbury, Connecticut has 16 Explorers with distorted tires like this--belt is obviously distorted and about to separate
August 26, 1996 FILED: Gauvain v. Bridgestone Corporation; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 1 fatality]
September 23, 1996 FILED: Brizendine v. So. New. T.B.A. Supply Co., et al. [injuries unknown]
December 27, 1996 FILED: Guara v. Ford, et al [Bronco II/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
 

1997

January 17, 1997 FILED: Kehm v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Bronco/ATX separation; 3 injuries]
February 21, 1997 FILED: Spivak v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
June 1997 Speed rating on tires in Venezuela changed from "R" [106 mph] to "S" [112 mph], with tires to be made in Venezuela.
June 1997 FILED: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [injuries unknown]
June 2, 1997 FILED: Stephens v. Catherine A. Broome and Christopher D. Kehm; Bridgestone/Firestone; et al. [Bronco/ATX separation; 3 injuries]
June 11, 1997 Fax from Daryl G. Parma of Firestone to Luis Abreau states that tests show "how much better" the Wilderness AT (ST381J) is than the ATX II (SR897J) which would replace the ATX II.
July 28, 1997 FILED: Jackson v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 3 injuries, 1 fatality]
August 1997 An undated memo states Ford and Firestone are notified of tire problems in Saudi Arabia [from the Congressional notebooks]
August 7, 1997 FILED: Lazarus v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
September 16, 1997 FILED: Silva v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
September 22, 1997 FILED: Carrillo v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Blazer/ATX separation; 2 fatalities]
October 21, 1997 FILED: Chinichian v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
October 7, 1997 FILED: Flores v. Ford; Bridgestone/Firestone, et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
December 1, 1997 FILED: Ortiz v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 1 fatality]
 

1998

January 1998 Glenn R. Drake, regional marketing manager in the United Arab Emirates for Ford expresses concern about Firestone's response to the tire problems in an email to other Ford executives:
"If this was a single case, I would accept Firestone's response as they are the experts in the tire business, case closed. However, we now have three cases and it is possible that Firestone is not telling us the whole story to protect them from a recall or a lawsuit."
January 9, 1998 FILED: Haffey v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 2 injuries, 1 fatality]
January 22, 1998 FILED: Huffman v. Ford; et al [Explorer/ATX separation; 2 injuries, 1 fatality]
January 28, 1998 FILED: Bragg v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [1 injury]
April 23, 1998 FILED: Van Etten v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford [Explorer/ATX separation; 3 injuries, 1 fatality]
April 24, 1998 FILED: Parra v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/Wilderness HT; 2 injuries]
May 15, 1998 FILED: Kim v. Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 2 injuries, 2 fatalities]
June 24, 1998 In an internal Bridgestone/Firestone interoffice memo to M. Hamaya Firestone, K. Ball acknowledges that P235/75R15 ATX II separation is 92.8% of all ATX II claims and 53.6% of all Firestone light truck claims for the year of 1997. Additionally, warranty claims on ATX II tires jumped from 42 in 1995 to 279 in 1997, a sixfold increase. 1998 light truck claims are 469 for separations and 8 for road hazards.

1997 light truck claims by plant for the ATX II show 117 for Decatur, 101 for Wilson, and 51 for Joliette.

July 13, 1998 FILED: Simmons v. Ford; et al [Explorer/ATX separation; 2 injuries]
July 22, 1998 In an email to William Duckwitz at NHTSA from State Farm Associate Research Administrator Samuel Boyden, Boyden advises NHTSA of 21 Firestone ATX P235/75R15 tire failures causing injuries. Fourteen cases were in 1991-1995 Ford Explorers. The problem was dismissed as "unremarkable" by NHTSA.
July 31, 1998 FILED: Gutierrez v. Bridgestone/Firestone [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
August 27, 1998 FILED: Lockwood v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; Ford; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; 1 fatality]
September 17, 1998 FILED: Alvarez v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
October 24, 1998 Ford Dealer Paul Wright, Technical Branch Manager, Al Jazirah Vehicles, expresses concern and frustrations in a letter to John W. Thompson, Tamimi Company Commercial Division that despite his warning about the safety of the tires, he did not receive a response and was being "kept in the dark to what is happening."
October 24, 1998 (continued) "As you know, this concern goes back to mid-1997 when we first notified you of this concern. I have to state that I believe this situation to be of a safety concern, which could endanger both the vehicle and more importantly the user of the vehicle. So I am asking what is going on? Do we have to have a fatality before any action is taken of this subject?"

"I would recommend to ensure that we do not have any further incidents regarding tyres that Firestone RECALL all 1995/1996/1997 explorers fitted with this type of tyre, as this is a safety related concern."

1999 Federal data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System for 1995-98 was available to Ford, Firestone, and NHTSA showing that Explorer fatalities were almost three times as likely to be tire related as those with other SUVs or cars and that Explorer crashes increased significantly in the late 1990s compared with other SUVs.
 

1999

January 1999 or after Explorer Tire DNP - Exposed Findings of Tire Explosion and Car Rolling Due to Tire Inflation. Notes report of 22 Firestone and 10 Goodyear tread separations and rollover crashes.
January 12, 1999 FILED: Hill v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [5 injuries]
January 19, 1999 FILED: Wieters v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [ injuries unknown]
January 22, 1999 An email from D.J. Candido, to Firestone colleagues concluded that for countries prone to heat induced separation, the Wilderness HT, with European specs, was the best application choice. However, they also acknowledged that this model is more prone to chip and tear. The best choice is to develop a new tire with similar heat specs to the European model and similar chip/tear specs to the Australian model.
January 27, 1999 In an interoffice Bridgestone/Firestone memo entitled P255/79 R16 Wilderness AT Adjustment Data to Bruce Halverson, Market Quality Engineer, Nashville, Luis E. Abreu, Technical Service Manager, Firestone Venezuela, indicates that 47 tires in Venezuela had tread or belt separation. Of these 47, 34 had international serial codes and 13 had DOT (USA) code.

In an attachment, Abreu further notes the most critical defects from January 1995 to December 1998 are Tread leaving casing (135), Belt leaving belt (136), Breaker leaving casing (137), shoulder separation between rubber and casing (230), belt edge separation (235).

January 28, 1999 In an email to Melanie Gumz, Glenn Drake of Ford reports that he is suspicious of Firestone's response to the problem and suggests that Firestone is not telling the entire story in order to protect themselves from lawsuits and a recall. Drake also questions the durability of the product and the fact that Ford is about to change the tire on all Explorers and mountaineers to a tire that has better high speed durability. Drake recommends that Ford conduct its own analysis in order to protect Ford and give the dealers and customers an independent opinion. "[W]e owe it to our customers and our shareholders to investigate this for our own peace of mind."
January 1999 In a memo to Firestone Distribution entitled Ford Explorer - Concerns in the Middle East (P255/70R16), John E. Behr, Account Executive for Original Equipment Tire Sales, reported, "I attempted to assure the Ford people that we are not aware of any defect with these tires, and that we've supplied over 1.1 million of the same tires to Ford over the past three years (1996 thru 1998) for usage in North America, with excellent field performances."
January 29, 1999 In a memo to Bridgestone/Firestone Distribution, John E. Behr, OE Sales, expresses that Ford is concerned that the tires in the Middle East are defective.

Raises the issue of using the P255/70R16 Wilderness HT BSW H instead of the P255/70R16 was requested by Ford. He advised that the H tire would be better suited for high speed driving and more resistant to heat buildup but would not be more puncture resistant.

February 8, 1999 FILED: Menendez v. Ford, Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
February 14, 1999 In a letter to Keshav Das, Technical Service Department of Firestone at Dubai, John Garthwaite, Ford National Service Director, Al Jazirah Vehicles (Ford Dealer in the Middle East), warns Bridgestone/Firestone of the serious nature of the problem with P255/70/R16 AT tires. Garthwaite indicates that an accident occurred with a tire at 30 psi. The tread separated completely and the tire remained inflated. Garthwiate expressed his strong conviction that there is a "distinct problem with all or at least a certain production run of this particular tyre."
February 25, 1999 Garthwaite continues to question the safety of the P255/70/R16 tire in a subsequent letter to Keshav Das. "These incidents involving Firestone P255/70/R16 tyres is beginning to become an epidemic." He further states that "Nothing in your reply has done anything to re-assure me that there may not exist a defect in a particular batch of your product . . ."
March 11, 1999 An internal Bridgestone/Firestone Letter to S. Katsura, et. al. from Firestone Account Executive, John E. Behr expresses concern over the result of Ford's proposed consumer notification program and the potential effects and "perception" it would convey in Saudi Arabia as well as "complications it could create in North America." The letter also indicates that other Ford people also disfavored the notification program.

Ford planned to change the tire in the Middle East to the H-rated European tire that is more heat resistant.

March 12, 1999 An internal Ford memo to Dave MacKinnon from Church Seilnacht states the following:

"John [Behr] also reaffirmed that the "H" rated tire is the most resistant to damage from underinflated operation."

 

March 12, 1999 (continued)

"Firestone legal has some major reservations about the plan to notify customers and offer them an option. First, they feel that the U.S. D.O.T. will have to be notified of the program, since the same product is sold in the U.S. Second, they are afraid that the Saudi government will see this as a recall and react dramatically, including prohibiting the import of the current OEM tire. They believe the best course of action for the vehicles already in the market is to handle the tire issues on a case-by-case basis."

"Related to the Firestone legal concerns is the possibility that we will be expanding the owner relations issue. The owners who receive the notification letter may see the program as a recall and not be willing to pay anything to upgrade the tires. So, instead of 8 owner relations issues, we now have X times as many."

"I [talked to] Corey MacGillivray in the OGC last Monday about the proposal. He didn't think that working on a case-by-case basis with the owners of the damaged vehicles presented a problem, but he was concerned about the implications of the owner letter (similar to the Firestone concerns)."

April 27, 1999 FILED: Glick v. Firestone Tire and Service Center, et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
April 28, 1999 Ford memo on Firestone Tire Tread Separations states that Ford will "address the issues related to the rollovers on a case-by-case basis."
May 4, 1999 FILED: Healy v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; 1 injury]
May 4, 1999 FILED: Patterson (Elroy) v. Bridgestone/Firestone [injuries unknown]
May 4, 1999 In a fax from Arabian Car Marketing to Ford Middle East and North Africa Company, Oman Ford advises Ford Middle East that it is replacing Firestone tires with Michelin tires prior to delivery because Explorer users are becoming aware of (through the internet) the off-road limitations of the Explorer.
June 24, 1999 FILED: Jenkins v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [injuries unknown]
June 30, 1999 Fax labeled "Top Urgent & Very Important" to Ford Middle East from Arabian Car Marketing Company warns Ford Middle East and North Africa that the tires are failing: "news of fatal accidents on Explorer is spreading rapidly." "The tire problem has already resulted in a severe decline in Explorer sales." "We are also worried about further fatalities and possible lawsuits."
July 2, 1999 FILED: Jenkins v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.[injuries unknown]
July 7, 1999 FILED: Meza v. McCombs HFC Limited D/B/A Red, et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
July 16, 1999 FILED: Progressive County Mutual Insurance Company v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
July 28, 1999 FILED: Jarvis v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
July 30, 1999 FILED: Taylor v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
August 2-5, 1999 Teams from Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone recognize Ford Explorer rollover due to tread leaving casing in the Venezuelan Tire Survey of problem tires. Suggested possible causes are excessive speed (173 Km/hr (26 Km in 9 minutes)), heavy load (8 passengers plus luggage), and high pavement temperature (55 degrees Celsius at 1:20 pm). Suggested possible results were tire fatigue and separations. 132 tires inspected at dealers in 4 locations revealed 8 underinflated tires (Wilderness P255/70R/16AT and P235/75R/15ATX)

The teams suggested as one of the possible actions to improve the circumstances in Venezuela, increasing the recommended inflation pressure on the vehicle from 28 to 30 in the front and from 26 to 30 in the back. The 30 psi standard was considered to be the USA standard of inflation.

August 6, 1999 FILED: Aoyagi v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [injuries unknown]
August 9, 1999 Letter from B.V. Halverson to Mr. J. Gonzalez of Bridgestone Firestone acknowledges that "sustained high speed driving must be considered as a normal input in the performance of vehicles and tires in Venezuela." Mr. Carlos Maren "really wanted a BFS recommendation that would guarantee that a tire would never have a separation."
August 12, 1999 FILED: Romero v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
August 13, 1999 FILED: Jimenez v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
August 17, 1999 Ford begins replacing tires on Saudi Explorers through a "customer notification enhancement action" and not a "recall."

Excerpts from correspondences regarding the "Owner Notification Program"

"Unique GCC usage patterns, environmental conditions and maintenance practices may result in tire degradation and potentially, tread separation. Nineteen rollovers, fourteen fatalities and ten injuries are alleged to have been attributed to this condition."

August 17, 1999 Approximately 6,800 1995-99 MY Explorer and Mountaineer vehicles produced at the Louisville Assembly Plant from Job 1, 1995, through July 30, 1999, are potentially affected."

"Based on the Field Review Committee recommendation, a field action has been approved to request owners to return potentially affected vehicles to dealers for replacement of the Firestone Wilderness brand tires with Goodyear Wrangler brand tires."

August 19, 1999 FILED: De Leon v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [injuries unknown]
August 23, 1999 In a letter to owners of light truck vehicles, Bridgestone/Firestone offers free tire inspection and free rotation service as a special offer to Venezuelan owners of light truck vehicles.
August 27, 1999 In a letter to C.E. Mazzorin, Ford's L.A. Klein indicates that the tire problems in the Middle East are largely due to the fact that the tire was not designed for the Middle Eastern market. The tire's speed rating is "S" which allows for speeds up to 112 mph. The Middle East requires higher speed ratings.
September 1999 In a letter to it's GCC dealers, Ford stated:
"Ford and Firestone have been working to identify a Firestone tire that we can recommend that may offer a greater margin of resistance to puncture and or tread separation for the conditions unique to the GCC region than the current tire. That tire has been identified as the 'special service' tire currently available only in the Saudi Arabian market. This tire is more puncture resistant than the current production tire.
Fall 1999 Ford began replacing Firestone tires on Explorers in ten Middle East countries.
September 1, 1999 FILED: Hendricks v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
September 3, 1999 FILED: Bean v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
September 9, 1999 FILED: Porsche v. Ford, Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. [3 injuries]
September 12, 1999 In a letter from John Garthwaite, National Service Director, Al Jazirah Vehicles, Saudi Arabia, to David MacKinnon, Director of Ford Customer Service, Dubai, Garthwaite once again advises of tread separation problems in Saudi Arabia. He suggests an in-depth Firestone tire investigation. "I am afraid that I can see a pattern emerging here. The tyre in this second case is totally destroyed but it is clear to me that the body damage is indicative of tread separation in the first instance."
September 13, 1999 FILED: Smith v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.; et al. [injuries unknown]
September 14, 1999 Ford memo entitled "1995/99 Explorer/Mountaineer Firestone P255/70R16 Tire Separation in the United States" states:

"While driving vehicle, the tire tread separated from the main carcass of the tire. The tire failure is discovered when the driver hears the tire tread hitting the wheel house or the tire goes flat."

"MORS (Master Owners Relation System) - Reviewed all 95/99 MORS reports (4236) for tires and wheels. Found 32 'possible' tread separation claims on Firestone (22) and Goodyear (10). 3 of the 32 possible claims were for the P225/70R15 tire from Firestone. 10 of the 32 possible claims were for the P235/75R15 tire from Goodyear. 18 of the 32 possible claims were for the P235/75R15 tire from Firestone."

September 15, 1999 Internal Ford memo from Carlos Mazzorin to Jac Nasser and others:

The attachment dated August 27, 1999 states:

"Issue description: While driving the vehicle at high speeds, for prolonged periods of time, the tire tread separated (belt edge separation) from the main carcass of the tire. 19 rollovers attributed to this issue have occurred in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar combined. Several fatalities have resulted. The issue has also occurred in Venezuela, and fatalities have also resulted in that market. No known instances have occurred in other markets."

"Ford first became aware of the issue in GCC markets in December 1998." In Venezuela, Ford "discovered the issue in early Spring 1999."

September 17, 1999 FILED: Douglas v. Ford; Bridgestone/Firestone; et al. [Explorer/ATX separation; injuries unknown]
October 1, 1999 Interoffice memo from L.A. Klein to C.E. Mazzorin reveals Ford's admission that it was responsible for choosing to use the North American tire in the GCC (Gulf Countries) market and determines the tire was not suitable for this area. Firestone was not part of that decision.
October 1, 1999 (continued) GCC Market:

* "Negotiations with Firestone have stopped. Firestone's position that the tire meets all quoted functional specifications, and that it was not meant for the GCC market application is confirmed by our research. It appears that Ford chose to use the North American specified tire in the GCC market, and Firestone was not part of that decision."

Ford also indicates that the tires failing in Venezuela were specifically designed for the Venezuelan market and therefore the responsibility lies with Firestone.

October 19, 1999 Report entitled 1999 Firestone Quarterly Meeting: Critical Performance Issues, Aiken, SC indicates that tire separations were up to 3365 from 2929. Belt edge separation up 18.3%, belt leaving belt was up 10.1%, and SW separation - rubber from casing was up 63.6% for 1999 third quarter compared to 1998. This report does not separate out the individual tires.

Firestone Adjustment Performance - Service Group states that more improvement in separations are needed to reduce LT REC adjustments.

Firestone Adjustment Performance of major lines indicated that Wilderness AT and Wilderness HT experienced increases in adjustments related to Ford F150 sizes.

The adjustment analysis also indicates that Firestone Light Truck - recreational experienced an increase in belt edge separation (up 22.3%), belt leave belt (up 11.1%), and SW SEP - Rubber from casing (up 69.6%).

October 19, 1999 The Radial ATXII also experienced a 5.2% increase in belt edge separation.

Firestone report indicates that Decatur plant experiences substantial number of problems compared to the other plants.

November 10, 1999 FILED: Guillen v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., et al. [injuries unknown]
December 21, 1999 FILED: Gilmore v. Bridgestone/Firestone; et al. [injuries unknown]
 

2000

2000 In the 1999 vs. 1998 Adjustments data, Firestone revealed that Wilderness tire separations increased 194% and Wilderness adjustments were "growing quickly."
2000 est. In a Firestone document "Explorer Tire DNP" giving status report:

"In July 1997 [Ford Venezuela] representatives were called to a meeting in Caracas with a group of independent lawyers representing four (4) customers. The objective of this meeting as expressed by these lawyers, was to draw Ford attention to a situation related to their customers, but that they felt could be greater."

"High incidence of vehicle rollover after a tire blowout or tread loss has not been detected for other vehicle brands: Toyota, GM, and Chrysler all have significant market presence in this market segment."

January 1, 2000 In a Bridgestone/Firestone 1999 Year End Minor Profit Loss Report from William Thomas to Dave Laubie, attached charts show 1998 and 1999 data on tire tread separations by tire type and plant indicating large numbers of tread separations in tires manufactured at Decatur plant and with 235/75R15 tire. The report also shows increasing claims for SXR4S Tire in 1999. Overall separation are up 10 in 1999 over 1998. 25% of total separations in 1999 were ATX II.
February 2000 Ford offers free replacement tires for vehicles in Malaysia and Thailand.
February 2000 Officials from Bridgestone/Firestone were briefed as early as February about rising warranty costs for the now recalled tires according to internal Bridgestone/Firestone documents including a series of charts distributed at a sales meeting in February, 2000. One chart tracking "separations increasing" revealed that the number of warranty claims for tread separation had risen from 4,200 in 1998 to 4,694 in 1999 (an increase of 11.8 percent). Another chart stated that "Wilderness AT needs improvement." While still other charts analyzed patterns in tread separations emphasizing tires for light trucks. These charts revealed that the number of tread separations involving Wilderness tires had risen 144 percent from 1998 to 1999.
February 7, 2000 & Feb. 10, 2000 KHOU, CBS affiliate station in Houston, breaks story of significant numbers of deaths and lawsuits with Firestone tires on Ford Explorers. Firestone Statement on February 4 before the programs aired says: "The Radial ATX has proved to be a reliable workhorse for U.S. consumers. Our experience with the Radial ATX indicates high consumer satisfaction with the quality and reliability of these tires. No court or jury has ever found any deficiency in these tires."
February 10, 2000 In a letter from Christine Karbowiak, Vice President, Public Affairs, Firestone, to Robert Decherd, Chairman, President and CEO of A.H. Belo Corp., and Peter Diaz, President and General Manager of KHOU-TV, Firestone states that KHOU-TV's broadcast series regarding its tires, "contains falsehoods and misrepresentations that improperly disparage Firestone and its product, the Radial ATX tire." It further asserts, "This series has unmistakably delivered the false messages that Radial ATX tires are dangerous, that they threaten the safety of anyone using them, and that they should be removed from every vehicle on which they are installed. Each of these messages is simply untrue."
February 25, 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone report indicates that separations in Wilderness tires are on the rise, but ATX are decreasing.
March 5, 2000 NHTSA ODI resume (IE00-016 ' different from current investigation file number) indicates 22 complaints, 8 crashes, and 4 fatalities due to tire tread separation. (All ODI complaints are sent to company when received.)
March 6, 2000 NHTSA opens preliminary inquiry after KHOU-TV programs prompted consumer complaints.
March 22, 2000 Firestone survey of 243 tires on 63 vehicles that were trade-ins or lease return vehicles shows that 31% of the 15" tires were under-inflated and 51% of the 16" tires were under-inflated and at total of 9 tires had less than 20 psi.
April 25, 2000 In response to a request from NHTSA, Samuel Boyden, State Farm Associate Research Administrator, emailed a breakdown by calendar year and tire type (Firestone ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness tires) for the period covering 1996 to April 2000. This contained information on 70 reports.
May 2000 Ford offers to replace tires for customers in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
 

May 2000

Ford shifts to Goodyear tires in Venezuela as it waits for a U.S. Firestone response. Ford's action covers about 39,800 vehicles.
May 2, 2000 NHTSA opens investigation of 47 million ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness Firestone tires (investigation number PE00-020) with 90 complaints reporting 33 crashes including 4 fatal crashes and 17 injury crashes resulting in 27 injuries and 4 fatalities.

Unknown to NHTSA, lawsuits and notices of intent to file involved at least 35 fatalities and 130 injuries.

May 8, 2000 NHTSA sends a list of interrogatories to Bridgestone/Firestone as part of its investigation of the tire failures. NHTSA requests that Firestone respond by June 19th.
May 10, 2000 NHTSA sends a list of interrogatories to Ford as part of its investigation of the tire failures. NHTSA requests that Ford respond by June 23rd.
June 6, 2000 Internal Ford Memo lists 21 vehicles sold in Gulf Countries. Lists Explorer (in Venezuela) psi at 28/28 for the 15" tire. The new 15" tires are listed at 30/30.
June 16, 2000 Ford requests an extension of the deadline to respond to NHTSA's interrogatories with an anticipated completion date of October 13th.
June 20, 2000 In response to NHTSA's interrogatories, Bridgestone/Firestone submits a partial response.
June 22, 2000 NHTSA grants Bridgestone/Firestone an extension until August 14th to provide information in response to its interrogatories.
July 24, 2000 In response to NHTSA's interrogatories, Ford submits a partial response.
July 25, 2000 After a story aired on KCBS regarding Ford Explorers and ATX tires, Firestone instructed dealers to replace tires with Bridgestone or Firestone tires of the customer's choice. However, "[t]his sale should be a regular sales ticket. Do not use an adjustment ticket." [Adjustments (warranties) are used by NHTSA and industry to track defects.]
July 31, 2000 Public learns of Ford's replacement of Firestone tires on Explorers in Venezuela.
July 31, 2000 Ford submits another partial response to NHTSA's original interrogatories.
August 2, 2000 NHTSA reports it is probing 21 deaths in crashes of pickup trucks and SUVs where tire failure may have played a role
August 4, 2000 Sears, Roebuck & Co., the No. 1 tire retailer, stops selling certain Firestone tires.
August 4, 2000 Ford submits another partial response to NHTSA's original interrogatories.
August 6, 2000 Firestone announces a "customer information notice" in Venezuela in which certain models of tires would be replaced.
August 7, 2000 NHTSA announces investigation of 46 deaths related to the Firestone tires.

Discount tire and Montgomery Ward suspend sales of Firestone tires until more information is made available.

August 9, 2000 Firestone/Bridgestone voluntarily recalls 6.5 million 15" ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT from the Decatur plant. (14.4 manufactured)
August 14, 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone asks NHTSA to again extend its deadline to respond to NHTSA's initial interrogatories until September 5th.
August 15, 2000 NHTSA raises the number of traffic deaths linked to Firestone tires from 46 to 62. It is also looking into reports of 100 injuries.
August 18, 2000 Ford's partial response to NHTSA's inquiries.
August 28, 2000 Bridgestone announces a boost in replacement production to 650,000.
August 29, 2000 NHTSA requests supplemental information from Ford as part of its ongoing investigation of the Firestone tire failures. NHTSA requests that Ford respond by September 31st.
August 31, 2000 Venezuela's consumer protection agency, Indecu, asked prosecutors to bring criminal charges against both Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford. Ford's Jacques Nasser responded by stating, "The accusation from the Venezuelan government that Ford Venezuela lied is absolutely unfounded." Venezuelan authorities contend that Ford and Firestone held secret meetings to determine what was wrong following the first reports of incidents in 1998. Instead of instituting a recall, officials allege that Ford asked Firestone to redesign the Wilderness tire.
August 31, 2000 NHTSA raises to 88 from 62 the number of deaths associated with the Firestone tires.

Venezuelan consumer agency, Indecu, recommends that Ford and Firestone be prosecuted for 46 deaths related to the tires in Venezuela.

September 1, 2000 Firestone declines NHTSA's request to voluntarily expand recall to 1.4 million tires not included in the original recall.

NHTSA issues consumer advisory on additional 1.4 million Firestone tires. NHTSA states that some of the tires have "high tread separation rates."

September 4, 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone issues a recall in Venezuela of 62,000 Venezuelan-made 15-inch and 16-inch Wilderness tires. Previously, only US-manufactured tires were being replaced.
September 4, 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone reaches agreement with union to settle labor disputes and avert a strike at nine U.S. plants.
September 6, 2000 Mr. Wyant, Firestone Vice President of Quality Assurance, testified that, "They [Ford] see every bit of the field performance data that is devoted to approving a tire."
September 6, 2000 The Senate Appropriations Committee and House Commerce Sub Committees conduct separate hearings on the Bridgestone/Firestone-Ford tire recall.
September 8, 2000 Ford states in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that "we have preliminarily agree to bear a portion of the costs of Firestone's recall."
September 12, 2000 Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook delivers testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transporation on Ford and Firestone's knowledge of the safety defects, NHTSA's legislative and enforcement weaknesses and calls for an expanded recall.
September 18, 2000 Public Citizen files amicus curaie brief in support of plaintiff's motion to compel and opposition to protective order in the case of Trahan v. Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone.
September 20, 2000 Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) drops a provision that would have prevented NHTSA from issuing a consumer information test on motor vehicle rollover.
September 20, 2000 Sens. McCain and Hollings and the Senate Commerce Committee propose new auto safety legislation that would strengthen NHTSA's incentive and enforcement powers but would "not require companies to test their products before certifying that they comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards."
September 26, 2000 Senate Commerce Committee auto safety legislation (S. 3059) as reported promises to strengthen safety regulations but fails to "establish criminal penalties for knowingly selling vehicles that do not comply with safety standards, for failing to notify the Secretary of Transportation and the public of safety defects or noncompliance with safety standards, and for refusing to comply with the recall provisions of the Safety Act," Public Citizen's analysis of the legislation said.
September 27, 2000 Auto safety legislation reported by the Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee "drastically limits the information that manufacturers will have a duty to provide to NHTSA on a regular basis, and sets up numerous hurdles which the agency must jump over before being able to accomplish basic rulemaking on the content of manufacturer's submissions."
October 2, 2000 Firestone agrees to release by October 9, 2000 all test results, quality assurance and adjustment data, and all correspondence between Ford and Firestone concerning specifications and criteria from Ford and the manufacture, design, testing and failure of the ATX tire -- documents that the company had previously attempted to keep secret.
October 11, 2000 The U.S. Senate unanimously passes H.R. 5164, the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (T.R.E.A.D.), which becomes public law on November 1, 2000
October 31, 2000 Public Citizen releases report showing that the auto industry has contributed $37.8 million to lawmakers since 1995, 75 percent of which went to Republicans.
November 21, 2000 Goodyear reveals that safety defects in its Load Range E tires have led to at least 15 deaths and 129 injuries. The company had been aware of the defects but faces no criminal penalties.
December 2, 2000 Ford's former vice president for quality assurance, robert O. Martin, testifies that tires produced at the Decatur plant may have been overrespresented in fatal crashes because they were installed in warm-weather states.
December 11, 2000 Ford officials tell NHTSA that flaws in designs and manufacturing processes of Firestone tires are to blame for tire failures, not the vehicles themselves. "Our experience...leads us to conclude that the vehicle is not a significant contributor to tread separation," according to their report.
December 17, 2000 NHTSA reports that 148 deaths and 525 injuries can now be attributed to crashes involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires.
December 21, 2000 Tom Baughman, engineering director for Ford's truck operations, states in a deposition that the 15-inch Wilderness AT tires "are not robust against variations and inflation pressure and in operating condition, load and speed."

2001

January 4, 2001 Evidence compiled by Public Citizen and Safetyforum.com reveals that Ford and Firestone limited last year's recall to tires made at the Decatur, Ill. plant, analyzed only one narrow database and ignored information about tire failures that spawned major litigation claims, consumer complaints and adjustment records that show replacement of equipment under warranty.
January 9, 2001 NHTSA releases a new rollover rating program, but the star rating system is limited because it is static and purely informational.
February 2, 2001 Firestone releases report on the causes of tread separation showing that the rate at which customers brought their tires in for problems was essentially the same, whether the tires were made at plants in Decatur, Ill., Joliet, Quebec or Wilson, N.C.
April 25, 2001 Public Citizen and Safetyforum.com release report concluding that approximately 10 million non-recalled 15-inch Wilderness tires and 16-inch Wilderness AT tires should also be recalled, as they are subject to the same design flaws as the 6.5 million recalled tires.
June 19, 2001 Joan Claybrook's submitted testimony to two House subcommittees investigating the issue encourages NHTSA to raise its standards for rollover crashworthiness.
June 27, 2001 Safety consultant Sean Kane asserts in a New York Times article that some consumer lawyers may have been aware of patterns of failure in Firestone tires but did not alert NHTSA, due to private lawsuits.
August 24, 2001 Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. agrees to pay $7.5 million to settle a case brought by Dr. Joel Rodriguez and his wife, Marisa, who was injured in a rollover crash. This was the first crash involving a Ford Explorer and Wilderness AT tire that had gone to trial.
August 27, 2001 The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal government has linked 203 deaths and over 700 injuries to the Ford Explorer and Firestone tires.
October 4, 2001 Firestone announces that it will recall 3.5 million additional Wilderness AT tires manufactured prior to 1998 at plants other than the Decatur, Ill. plant.

 

 

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