Firestone Tire Controversy

On October 21, 1999, a seventeen-year-old girl and her eighteen-year-old cousin were driving a 1998 Ford Explorer in North Carolina. The seventeen-year-old was the driver when one of the rear tires blew out. She tried to pull the sport utility vehicle to the shoulder but it flipped over twice. When it finished rolling, it landed on the passengerís side and the window burst. Luckily, both of the girls were wearing their seat belts, but if they did not have their belts on they would have been seriously injured or killed. No other vehicles happened to be involved in this accident. The girls suffered severe inflammation and pain, they could barely move. They were treated by their doctors for the pain they suffered from ("Ford Explorer Blow Out and Rollover"). The father of the driver says, "I am angered to find out that Firestone and Ford knew that the tires were faulty, but they did not recall the tires or remove them from the Explorers" ("Ford Explorer Blow Out and Rollover"). Many accidents just like this one have been reported. Because Ford Motor Company decided to decrease the amount of air in the poorly designed Firestone tires and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) did not catch these errors, many people have not only been injured, but have also suffered death.

In August of 1999, the first action regarding the controversy of Firestone tires took place. Ford offered customers of Saudi Arabia free tires to replace the Firestone tires in question. The NHTSA did not begin to evaluate the failure of these tires until May of 2000. To follow through with their evaluation, they first asked Firestone for information then they asked Ford ("Chronology of Events in Firestone Tires Controversy"). Deaths and injuries were increasing in numbers. A few retailers began to stop selling the Firestone tires in question. On August 9, 2000, Firestone announced a recall on 6.5 million tires and offered to replace them. Shortly after that, Ford began to "free up tires for recall replacements" ("Chronology of Events in Firestone Tires Controversy"). Firestone began to provide replacements for the recalled tires by flying them in from Japan to the United States and by boosting production. The House of Representatives and the Senate are now involved and they have sent investigators to look into the problem ("Chronology of Events in Firestone Tires Controversy").

In Picklerís article, she noted that one problem with the recalled tires is that Ford recommended a tire pressure that was lower than what Firestone suggested. Ford did this because they installed excessively soft shock absorbers on their sport utility vehicle, the Explorer. Ford recommended a lower tire pressure because a lower pressure gives the vehicles a softer ride and more grip. On the other hand, the lower pressure causes the tread to wear faster and causes greater friction with the road, which leads to more heat. The combination of high speeds, low inflation of tires, and heavy loads in the Explorer causes a high stress rate on the tires ("Firestone: Ford Had Wrong Pressure"). When high temperatures are added in, the stress on a tire is maximized. Because of conditions such as these, thousands of people have experienced tread separations, blowouts, and other tire problems. Consequently, Firestone has urged Ford to raise the tire pressure in the Explorer to thirty pounds per square inch (psi). The Explorer is not the only vehicle that has the tire pressure problems; it is just the most common because most of the faulty tires were fitted on the Explorer. Ford argues that the twenty-six psi is above the twenty psi minimum that The tire and Rim Association has set.

In Dobbynís article, he points out that Firestone also plays a big role in the cause of deaths and injuries in the Ford vehicles. Firestone executive, John Lampe, told a Senate Commerce Committee, "We made some bad tires and we take full responsibility for those" ("Ford, Firestone Pressed to Tell All"). At a Congressional hearing on September 21, 2000, there was a focus on the problems at Firestone's plant in Decatur, Illinois. Since the 1990's there have been allegations of "sloppy work practices" and "labor unrest." The recalled Firestone tires all came from this plant in Illinois. Fred Upton, the chairperson of the investigation panel said, "there was something rotten in Decatur" (Dobbyn "Firestone Recall Exposes Flaws in Tests"). The NHTSA says that they are sending an investigator to the plant.

In his article, Dobbyn notes that the faulty Firestone tires were tested more than once by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and they passed all tests, including the speed and endurance tests. The House is saying that the tests need to be more demanding. Now, the NHTSA is admitting that their tests are outdated ("Firestone Recall Exposes Flaws in Tests"). These outdated tests allow unsafe tires to fall into the hands of consumers. It can appear to be such a minor error or flaw that the NHTSA has made, but it is one that has accounted for most of the fatal accidents with these tires.

Ford also uses Goodyear tires on their vehicles. When the Ford vehicles are equipped with these tires, the vehicles seem to be a lot safer ("Firestone Urges Ford to Raise Explorer Tire Pressure"). It seems to be the combination of somewhat faulty tires with a poorly designed vehicle that has been the cause of so many deaths and injuries. Any on of the dangerous factors by itself causes no problems, but when they are put together, it led to disaster.

Pickler states that the flaws involving the Firestone tires in the Ford vehicles are linked to 103 deaths as of September 20, 2000 ("Firestone Tire Death Toll Now 103"). She also lists that in August of 2000, Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires that have been having problems that are being reported by thousands of people. The NHTSA reported that 2226 complaints have been reported so far ("Firestone Tire Death Toll Now 103"). The injuries are now up to more than 400 ("Firestone Tire Death Toll Now 103"). Most of the accidents are occurring in rollovers of the Ford Explorer. Ford has settled seventeen cases for approximately $4 million and Firestone has settled 14 for approximately $12 million ("Firestone Tire Death Toll Now 103").

Several mistakes were made in this situation. First of all, Ford made a mistake. Ford only inflated the tires to 26 psi although the tires said 30 psi. Their excuse is that they have inflated the tires to 26 psi for years and when they used this pressure with other tires, they have never had a problem. They also say that Firestone not only knew they did this but they also consented to it. Ford could have prevented many losses by following the recommendations on the tires. Secondly, Firestone could have done something to prevent problems with their plant because they detected that something was not right. The NHTSA could have also helped prevent the many deaths and injuries. They could have done this because they knew that their tests were outdated, yet they did nothing about it. Again, sloppy work practices. I believe that if the men and women involved with the management of Ford, Firestone, and the NHTSA thoroughly thought through every aspect of their job and acted when appropriate, they could have saved lives of people that were killed as a result of driving a vehicle that was not equipped with a bad set of tires. The Decatur, Illinois plant is currently being investigated for "sloppy work practices." In my opinion, many deaths, injuries, and accidents could have been prevented if not only the laborers in that plant were doing their job correctly, but also the employees of Ford and the NHTSA.

 

Thesis: Because Ford Motor Company decided to decrease the amount of air in the poorly designed Firestone tires and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) did not catch these errors, many people have not only been injured, but have also suffered death.

 

Works Cited

"Chronology of Events in Firestone Tires Controversy." Yahoo! Finance 12 September 2000. 17 September 2000 <http://biz.yahoo.com/rf>

Dobbyn, Tim. "Firestone Recall Exposes Flaws in Tests." Yahoo! News 21 September 2000. 22 September 2000 <http://dailynews.yahoo.com>

Dobbyn, Tim. "Ford, Firestone Pressed to Tell All." Yahoo! News 12 September 2000. 17 September 2000 <http://dailynews.yahoo.com>

"Firestone Urges Ford to Raise Explorer Tire Pressure." Yahoo! Finance 21 September 2000. 22 September 2000. <http://biz.yahoo.com/rf>

"Ford Explorer Blow Out and Rollover." Firestone Tire Recall Legal Information Center Accident Reports. <http://www.firestone-tire-recall.com/pages/firestone_paralyzed.html>

Pickler, Nedra. "Firestone: Ford Had Wrong Pressure." Yahoo! News 21 September 2000. 22 September 2000 <http://dailynews.yahoo.com>

Pickler, Nedra. "Firestone Tire Death Toll Now 103." Yahoo! News 20 September 2000. 22 September 2000 <http://dailynews.yahoo.com>