A Special Report: St. Petersbrg Times Deadly Combination: Ford, Firestone and Florida
 
 
Deadly Combination:
Ford, Firestone and Florida
Part One
  • Main story
  • Companies warming to settlements
  • At a glance
  • The players
  • Questions and Answers
  • A Timeline
  • What the companies say
  • Interview with Anita Kumar, the reporter
  • Graphic: How the tires failed
  • Graphic: When it’s too late
  • Graphic: By the numbers
  • Graphic: The human toll

  • Part Two
  • After the rollover
  • Suspect tires still on road
  • Driver side rear tires fail the most
  • About this report

  • Contact Anita Kumar:
  • Via e-mail: Click here
  • By phone: (727) 893-8472

    Further coverage
  • In first trial, Firestone settles lawsuit
  • Battered Firestone counting on local ties
  • Rollover crashes are hard to track
  • Ford leaves 2-door SUV unchanged
  • Recall may leave Firestone bankrupt
  • Government to expand tire recall
  • FHP says Firestone tire a factor in fatal crash
  • Two bay area lawsuits target Ford, Firestone
  • Ford agrees to test replacement tires
  • Ford recall: from bad to worse?
  • Ford's sub tires may fail more
  • Attention shifts from Firestone to Ford Explorer
  • Ford widens recall; companies cut ties
  • Ford recalls Wilderness AT Firestone tires
  • Dealerships brace for Ford tire recall
  • Tire decision not just for Ford owners
  • Voluntary tire recall rolling smoothly
  • Firestone cuts deal on bad tires
  • How the tires failed: An interactive graphic

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    Dealerships brace for Ford tire recall

    Ford dealers scramble to line up tire supplies - and extra help - to replace Firestone tires.

    By STEPHEN HEGARTY and DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2001


    The day after Ford Motor Co. announced plans to replace some 13-million Firestone tires on its sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, the job fell to local dealerships to make it happen.

    The telephone started ringing at 9 a.m. at Autoway Ford in St. Petersburg. By noon, nearly 100 people had called to ask about getting their tires replaced.

    "I was just in the shop; we're trying to set up a separate section to handle this," said Don Caruso, service director for Autoway Ford. "We're going to have to hire some new people to handle it all."

    Ford's massive unofficial recall will mean plenty of extra work for local dealerships, but on Wednesday it wasn't quite time for the keen sound of power wrenches removing lug nuts. Instead it was a day to mobilize for the deluge of requests from concerned customers, and time to scramble to order replacement tires.

    Jacques Nasser, Ford president and chief executive, said the automaker is talking with Goodyear, Continental and Michelin about buying tires from them.

    Nasser said Ford was caught off guard by a letter Monday from Bridgestone/Firestone severing the 95-year relationship between the two companies.

    "For that reason, we really haven't had a chance to develop a detailed plan in terms of migrating out of Firestone tires," Nasser said.

    "We've got 800 tires on order," said Dewayne Carter, assistant service manager at Bartow Ford, which received about 100 calls Wednesday morning. "We're going to have to devote a certain number of people to handle just this. We're looking to get started in early June."

    Caruso said his parts manager got on the phone at 6 a.m. calling around the Southeast for replacement tires.

    "We're going to be pretty busy with this," Caruso said. "We're still trying to find tires."

    Ford notified dealers of the unofficial recall late Tuesday, giving them at least a little time to prepare for the phone calls Wednesday morning. Dealership employees worked the phones, logging in the callers' names, phone numbers and the make and model of their SUVs on legal pads to begin the process of setting up appointments.

    Richard Partyka of Valrico stopped by the Brandon Ford dealership Wednesday to apply for a refund on tires he already had replaced on his 1998 Eddie Bauer Explorer four months ago.

    Partyka said he knew that his Wilderness Firestone tires were not covered under Firestone's recall at the time. But one of his tires had a hairline crack, and he wanted to be rid of Firestone altogether.

    "My wife drives my children in the car," he said. "You always have the suspicion, in the back of your mind, that something might go wrong."

    Partyka got Michelin tires put in and wrote to Firestone for a refund. It was rejected. It wasn't a part of the recall.

    But all that changed Tuesday. That's when Ford announced the $2.1-billion recall effort, which covers the Wilderness AT tires that were not originally covered under Firestone's recall.

    "It's a very big stand," Partyka said. "You can't put a dollar figure on a human life."

    The recall involves 15-, 16- and 17-inch Wilderness AT tires on the Explorer and Expedition sport utility vehicles, Ranger pickup trucks and some F-150 pickup trucks. Most of the tires being replaced -- more than 80 percent -- are on the popular Ford Explorer.

    Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers will replace tires at no cost to customers. Ford also will reimburse customers who buy tires from other authorized retailers, with proof of purchase, up to $110 for each 15- and 16-inch tire and $130 for each 17-inch tire.

    Customers who have questions about replacing their tires should should call Ford's official tire replacement hotline toll free at 1-866-300-1226 or visit the company's Web site at www.ford.com.

    - Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

    Recent coverage

  • Deadly combination: Ford, Firestone and Florida (May 20-21, 2001)
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