Aug. 15, 2000

DOT Complaints of Fatalities and Injuries Continue to Mount

Statement of Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen President

Ford and Firestone continue to try to obscure the facts and confuse the public in disputing the call by consumer organizations for a recall of all 15-inch and 16-inch Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.

The companies have tried to narrow the recall to certain tires based on claim data gathered before there was broad public knowledge of the defective tires. Most consumers don t file claims based on what they perceive as an isolated incident.

But with public knowledge growing about the defective tires, the number of complaints at the Department of Transportation has skyrocketed to 750, with 62 fatalities and 100 injuries. And they will continue to grow.

The companies lack credibility in their attempt to blame factors other than the tires design. The similarity in climate between the foreign countries and the U.S. make a mockery of the argument Ford used for foreign recalls but not U.S. recalls.

Blaming owners for misuse is completely undercut by the disparity between what Ford and Firestone recommend for PSI inflation levels. Ford recommends 26 PSI (to reduce the likelihood of SUV rollover) while Firestone recommends 35 PSI (to reduce the likelihood of heat buildup to prevent tread separation.)

Blaming workers is not new, but it is illogical in this case. The Decatur factory makes many other tires and they are not being recalled as defective because of worker abuse. What s different between them and the Firestone Wilderness AT?

Until all relevant information is publicly known (for example, warranty data, adjustment data, lawsuits filed as well as those resolved, and internal company communications secured in litigation but under gag orders) the public cannot rely on the adequacy of the recall. To secure these documents, Public Citizen today has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT), and has urged the NHTSA administrator to secure relevant documents produced in lawsuits.

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