Firestone in crisis after latest tyre recall

The beleaguered Bridgestone subsidiary now faces a US government inquiry and possible strike action
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The Independent US

On one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, car owners in America were struggling yesterday to make sense of the growing Firestone tyre scandal and to make sure that their vehicles were safe.

On one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, car owners in America were struggling yesterday to make sense of the growing Firestone tyre scandal and to make sure that their vehicles were safe.

Late Friday, on the eve of the Labor Day holiday, the US government issued a new warning about tyres made by Firestone. It said that about 1.4 million tyres, fitted mostly on older sport utility vehicles, had flaws that could cause tread to peel away and lead to blow-outs.

The new crisis for the company came as it struggled to avert a long-threatened strike at factories all across the US. A Friday midnight deadline came and went and both sides announced yesterday that they were likely to continue talking all weekend to avoid a walk-out by 8,000 Firestone workers.

Firestone, which is owned by the Japan-based Bridgestone company, is already reeling from an earlier recall involving 6.5 million tyres, most of them fitted on Ford utility vehicles. Since the recall, millions of drivers have been inundating dealerships and tyre shops for replacements. Meanwhile, the US government has launched a formal probe into the company to determine whether faulty tyres might have been responsible for some 88 deaths across America and another 250 injuries.

Apparently, however, Firestone is still not doing enough to satisfy officials in Washington. On issuing its "consumer advisory" on Friday evening regarding the additional 1.4 million tyres, the government said it had asked the company to include them in the original recall and that it had refused.

The advisory does not oblige anyone to change their tyres. It left many drivers, who had thought themselves unaffected by the first recall, wondering if they too were driving unsafe cars. It did not help that only by crawling under their cars with a torch could owners see, from markings on the inside wall, whether their tyres were included in the new warning.

Ominously, the government indicated that problems it has detected with the latest batch of tyres may be worse even than the defects in the first recall. The government's findings "indicated that the rate of tread separations for certain other tire models and sizes exceed those of the recalled tires", the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

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