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Explorer owners panic

Time to retire: Ford Explorers sold here before November, 1997, are affected by a Firestone tyre recall.

Ford fights to maintain the good name of the Explorer in the aftermath of tyre trouble

17 Aug 2000

THE recall of certain sizes of Firestone tyres in America is becoming a nightmare for Ford, as owners across the continent refuse to drive their vehicles until the tyres are replaced.

A Texas dealer reportedly said: "Customers are saying I am scared to drive my car. What are you going to do to make me feel better about driving this car?".

In many cases the tyres are not from the suspect batch - just three styles of tyres in P235/75R15 sizes from the Decatur, Illinois, plant made between 1994 and 1996. A 10-month strike allegedly caused quality control corners to be cut.

Ford dealers are replacing some Firestone tyres not affected by the recall, as Ford fights to maintain the good name of the Explorer, the company's best-selling sport-utility. Keeping Explorer owners loyal - estimated to be 3.6 million drivers - is a huge issue for Ford which has authorised dealers to fit other brands and is reimbursing dealers 1.2 hours labour for doing so.

Ford is publicly supporting Bridgestone (owner of Firestone) but is reported to be frustrated, saying it took the firm too long to reveal data which showed problems with the tyres.

Reports of tread separation and blowouts in hot-weather operation have been linked to at least 46 deaths in the US, but the problem has been recognised for over a year: * In August, 1999, Ford replaced Firestones on 6800 Explorers in Saudi Arabia
* In February, 2000, Ford replaced Firestones on 300 Explorers in Thailand and Malaysia
* In June, 2000, Ford replaced Firestones on 39,812 Explorers and F-series trucks in Venezuela
* On August 9, 2000, Bridgestone recalled 6.5 million tyres in America
* On August 10, Bridgestone Australia announced a similar recall and established a toll-free number (1800-354-864), advising anyone with Firestone Wilderness AT tyres to take their vehicle to the nearest Firestone dealer.
Ford says 3500 Explorers potentially fitted with the affected tyres were sold here and Bridgestone Australia says a further 4800 tyres were imported and sold through tyre fitting outlets.

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