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Tire jurors hear from Firestone chief

Dolphan

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Two things I found interesting, the discussion about the Venezuela Exploreres with wrong shocks which caused the rear end to bounce hard - this reminded me of all the rear end 5TH shock discussions on this newsgroup. Second Firestone did not use nylon which reduced seperation by 5 fold but costs .90 a tire.
As Ford and Firestone go down different paths handling this issue it will be interesting to see which way works and costs less. :)

08/18/2001 - Updated 12:35 AM ET

Tire jurors hear from Firestone chief

By David Kiley, USA TODAY

McALLEN, Texas — Bridgestone-Firestone's chief executive testified Friday in federal court that his company's Firestone Wilderness AT tire was not the cause of a March 2000 rollover accident involving a Ford Explorer that left plaintiff Marisa Rodriguez brain damaged and in a wheel chair. It is the first case that the tire company has gone to court to fight since it recalled 6.5 million tires a year ago that were mostly on Ford Explorers. The tires have been linked to 203 deaths. Bridgestone's defense team is arguing that the design of the Ford Explorer caused the victim's injury, including a poorly designed backseat and seat belt restraint system.

"Our tires do not fail on other SUVs and other SUVs do not rollover as easily as the Explorer," said Bridgestone-Firestone CEO John Lampe.

The tire company is under attack by plaintiff lawyers for "keeping a lid on" information Firestone had regarding personal injury and property damage claims involving the Wilderness AT tires and ATX tires that have been used as original equipment on the Explorer since 1990.

Arkansas attorney Tab Turner has argued the company had "more than enough" information about "defective" tires before the Rodriguez accident took place, and that an earlier recall of the tires would have prevented it from happening.

Firestone severed its relationship with Ford this year after the auto company announced it would replace all Wilderness AT tires on its vehicles still in use even while the tire company is resisting a recall of the additional tires.

Earlier in the day, Marisa Rodriguez, 39, testified for less than five minutes, answering ‘yes' and ‘no' questions. Her husband, Joel Rodriguez, also testified. He was a passenger in the Explorer when it rolled off a Mexican highway last year after its left rear tire lost its tread.

Bridgestone's defense is expected to wrap up on Monday.

The Rodriguez family is seeking $1 billion from Bridgestone. The family already settled with Ford for $6 million.

The U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Agency has linked defective Firestone tires, most of them installed on Explorers, to 203 deaths and 700 serious injuries. All of the accidents involved blowouts or separations of the tire tread from the sidewall.

"I'm not looking to fight with Ford. We've got an issue with the vehicle and the tires," Lampe said under questioning from defense attorney Knox Nunnally. "We have to look at the vehicle. It's part of the issue we've got to understand."

He said that Ford found that the Explorers sold in Venezuela, where it replaced tires for customers after a higher accident rate appeared, had the wrong shock absorbers. That led the trucks' rear end to bounce hard enough to cause skidding and rollovers.

"So something wrong with the vehicle caused something to go wrong with the tire?'" Lampe asked.

In earlier videotaped testimony, Lampe said the company did not use a nylon layer that its own research found could reduce tread separations fivefold. The nylon layers, called cap strips, cost 90 cents a tire.

The trial comes more than a year after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started looking into the tires.

In May, Ford announced it would replace all 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires on its vehicles, at a total cost of some $3 billion, because of what it calls a "substantial failure risk." The recall and associated suits have cost Bridgestone more than $570 million to date.
 




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