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Ford CEO Strongly States What Ford Motor Company Has Done in Connection with Recall of Firestone Tires

Aired August 31, 2000 - 3:38 p.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Frank, I just have to interrupt one second. We do have breaking news. I do need to go back to Bernie Shaw in Washington -- Bernie.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: I am Bernard Shaw in Washington. We're going now to a Detroit news conference of the Ford Motor Company and CEO Jack Nasser.


JACK NASSER, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: ... about the Firestone tire problem. And that's why we called this meeting, and to really try and get some dialogue on it.

I go back. Since we have first found out about the problem, we have really been guided by three principles. And the first one, and the fundamental one, is that we're doing whatever it takes to guarantee our customer's safety. Not only their physical safety, but also that they feel secure when they're driving a vehicle that they know is safe. Second thing is that we're working as hard as we possibly can on finding out and replacing bad tires with good tires. I mean, that's a fundamental, building block, find the bad tires, replace them with good tires. And to do that, we must make sure that we understand the scope of the problem and the root cause of the tire issues. The third principle that we have to adhere to is that we are and we will continue to be open about any data and about any statistics that we find. So as soon as we know about it, it become public.

I must say, however, that one of the most difficult things in dealing with a problem of this type is that we don't know all the facts, and it does take a lot of time to gather and analyze the information. It is not easy. And we've had teams working around the clock to try and help that. We also want to be very careful not to say anything that is not supported by the facts, or say something that is based on poor information that later turns out to be incorrect.

So, there are the three areas of principle that we have applied throughout this issue being raised and we will stick to those three. Because I don't want any question about our objective to make as much as we have public, and all the actions that we are taking public, I've decided, personally, to testify at the congressional hearings next week. I've got to say that when it was a question of data and technical knowledge, I felt very comfortable that our technical experts should be represented. But it's very clear now that it's a broader issue than that, and I'm quite pleased to do that and I will be personally testifying next week at the hearings.

At this stage, I'd like to talk a little bit about where we are in the tire recall process. First, this is a tire issue. Without question, it is not a vehicle issue. We have over half a million vehicles with tires from other manufacturers and they don't experience these problems and that makes us feel very confident that it is a tire issue, not a vehicle issue. Secondly, we believe that we know which tires are the problem.

We've made a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the Firestone data, which is the only comprehensive data that covers this matter, and that data has been provided to the government safety authorities. We've also made our analysis public to many different areas: customers, the general public and also Firestone and, of course, you have also seen it in the media, and to other safety regulators.

We've got one chart that I would like to show you and I think this chart shows very clearly the bad tires and as you can see, they are the Firestone ATX and ATX II tires, and the Decatur, Illinois- built Wilderness AT tires in the size P235/75/R15. And I think without question, when you look at that chart, the bad tires are clearly identified. The ones with a star on them, the one on the left and the one right beside it, indicate that they are included in the recall. They are the tires in the recall.

What we don't know is why the tires fail. We don't know that. And we're working with Firestone on that issue, because Firestone doesn't know it either. But it is important to note that once we found out which tires were bad and which tires were good, we took action. We didn't wait. We didn't wait for the root cause of the problem, we went ahead and took the action, because we had data to support that action.

So far, we've replaced about 1 1/2 million tires, that is about 22 percent of the total population of tires that are included in the recall, and we're working closely and very hard with the other tire manufacturers to speed up the availability and replacement timing. That's what we are really concentrating on.

There have been several other stories in the press recently, and I'd like to address them very briefly one at a time. Venezuela, I'll start with that. As I think you know, 3 1/2 months ago we asked Firestone to replace tires in Venezuela. When they did not replace the tires, we did, and that was 3 1/2 months ago. We are replacing all Firestone tires on Ford Explorers and certain-like trucks in Venezuela. Today, we understand that the Venezuelan government is asking Firestone to formally recall those suspect tires. A Venezuelan official decreed that they do that as of this morning and those suspect tires would be recalled on Ford and other manufacturers' vehicles. We agree with that action. We started with that action 3 1/2 months ago. It's also been reported that this official has accused Ford Venezuela of lying. We did not lie to the Venezuelan government. Is there any confusion down there? I would have to say there is. And will we continue to meet with the government to try and clear up the matter? We'll continue to do that. But I want to just emphasize that the accusation from the Venezuelan government official that Ford Venezuela lied is completely unfounded, we did not lie to the Venezuelan government.

Saudi Arabia -- this is where the problem first arose. This happened about a year ago. When Firestone declined to cover the tires under warranty, we replaced the tires, and that was about a year ago. We started to replace the tires.

Bottom line: when you go through all of the regions around the world, including the U.S., we did not hide anything, and we actively looked to see if there was any evidence of the same problem here in the U.S. market. In every case, we were ahead of Firestone in terms of replacing tires. We were ahead of any government regulation or recall. We did it on our own, when the data supported the action.

Florida, recently -- yesterday, I believe, it was reported that a representative of the Florida attorney general's office will seek information from us and also from Firestone about this issue. We have received their request, and we will give them all the information that they have asked for, as soon as we can, and I think that'll be very quickly, because we've got the information and we certainly haven't withheld any data, information, or analysis that we have conducted.

One further thing I should add is that prior to next week's hearings, we will make available to the public, to you, and also to the committee, the documents which lay out in detail what we knew, when we knew it, and what we did about it -- what we knew, when we knew it, and what we did about it. At this point, it's a very difficult situation, I would say for everyone. I want you to know that I am sorry that these defective tires are on our vehicles and I am depressed with the result and anxiety, injury and deaths. There is no question about that.

SHAW: This is Jacques Nasser, the Ford CEO conducting a live news conference from Detroit and he has been very strongly stating what the Ford Motor Company has done in the past few days and weeks in connection with the recall of the Firestone tires.

I am Bernard Shaw in Washington. More of "TALKBACK LIVE" after this commercial break.



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