Cars, Tires, and Truth

Corporate infighting between Ford and Bridgestone-Firestone has burst into clear public view again. But that hasn't made the safety issues underlying this conflict much clearer.

These very prominent companies, with long business and family links, have descended into a blame game reminiscent of a discordant divorce.

Firestone announced this week that it will no longer supply tires to Ford after nearly a century of partnership. The tiremaker says Ford isn't facing up to the role its bestselling Explorer SUV played in the rollover accidents that led to the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires last August.

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For its part, Ford is launching a much larger recall of Firestone tires - up to 10 million, in addition to those recalled already. It says its in-house studies have indicated possible tread-separation problems with these tires, too. This recall is expected to cost Ford billions of dollars.

The driving public is left wondering which company's statements are nearer the truth.

It's clearly up to government, with its strong interest in public safety, to step in with the objective information that will clear up consumers' doubts. That process is under way, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expected to issue an in-depth report on the tire-tread issue this summer.

Congress will be involved, too. The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans hearings on the Ford-Firestone issues after Memorial Day.

What ought to emerge is an honest assessment of the products involved in this controversy - and, ideally, improved procedures within government for quickly jumping on this kind of safety-related issue.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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