Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Firestone vs Ford Motor Company controversy
In May 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contacted Ford and Firestone about the high incidence of tire failure on Ford Explorers fitted with Firestone tires. Ford investigated and found that several models of 15" Firestone tires (ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT) had very high failure rates, especially those made at Firestone's Decatur, Illinois plant.
The failures all involved tread separation—the tread peeling off followed often by tire disintegration. If that happened, and the vehicle was running at speed, there was a high likelihood of the vehicle leaving the road and rolling over. Many rollovers cause serious injury and even death; it has been estimated that over 250 deaths and more than 3,000 serious injuries resulted from these failures.
Ford and Firestone have both blamed the other for the failures, which has led to the severing of relations between the two companies. Firestone has claimed that they have found no faults in design nor manufacture, and that failures have been caused by Ford's recommended tire pressure being too low and the Explorer's design. Ford, meanwhile, point out that Goodyear tires to the same specification have a spotless safety record when installed on the Explorer. Ford's conclusions were confirmed by NHTSA in their report into the tire failures, published in October 2001.
Many outside observers tend towards blaming both parties; Firestone's tires being prone to tread separation and failure, and the Explorer being especially prone to rolling over if a tire fails at speed compared to other vehicles. However, a subsequent NHTSA investigation of real world accident data showed that the Ford Explorer was no more likely to roll over than any other SUV.
A product recall was announced, allowing Explorer owners to change the affected tires for others.
A large number of lawsuits have been filed against both Ford and Firestone, some unsuccessful, some settled out of court, and a few successful. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that both Ford and Firestone knew of the dangers but did nothing, and that specifically Ford knew that the Explorer was highly prone to rollovers. Ford denies these allegations.
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