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Public Citizen to NHTSA: Good Job

Oct. 4, 2001

Public Citizen to NHTSA: Good Job

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

After a lengthy investigation, the federal government has made an initial decision that a safety defect exists in certain Firestone Wilderness AT tires made before May 1998 at plants other than Decatur, Illinois — tires that were not included in last year?s recall and that safety groups have said for more than a year pose a danger to the motoring public.

We compliment the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for persuading Bridgestone/Firestone to agree to recall these additional tires. Consumers who have not already had their tires replaced by Ford now have another option to ensure their vehicles are riding on safe tires. We urge owners to have their tires replaced as soon as possible.

But we also agree that NHTSA should closely monitor post-May 1998 Wilderness AT tires, which have thicker “belt wedges” to ensure that they don?t separate at high rates and put the public at risk. NHTSA?s action today is one more vital step to guarantee that tires prone to tread separations are taken off the road, so that no additional people lose their lives or are seriously injured.

Public Citizen and Safetyforum.com called for these tires to be recalled in August 2000 and again in April 2001 when releasing an extensive report on the Wilderness tire failures titled The Real Root Case of the Ford-Firestone Tragedy: Why the Public Is Still at Risk.

Public Citizen, however, disputes NHTSA?s statement, made in its press release, that “claims and complaint data indicate that a tread separation on an Explorer is no more likely to lead to a crash than on other SUVs.” The only documentation for this statement is NHTSA?s engineering analysis, reflected in Tables 7 and 8 of the analysis, which show that the Explorer has a significantly higher rollover rate per 100 crashes than other compact and large SUVs. (This is based on the Firestone claims data and the Office of Defects Investigation?s consumer complaint database.) The claims and complaint data cannot be averaged for all vehicles, because 90 percent of the data NHTSA analyzed concerns the Explorer. Thus, this conclusion is highly misleading.