Firestone and Ford: the Tire Tread Separation Tragedy

5367 Words Mar 18th, 2013 22 Pages
Case 30
Firestone and Ford: The Tire Tread
Separation Tragedy

I

t is often tricky to know when an ethical or social issue really begins. Does it begin before it is “recognized” or “identified” as an issue?
Does it begin when an isolated manager recognizes an incident or a trend and reports it via a memo to his superiors? Does it begin once the media get hold of information and the frenzy begins? Such questions arise in the case of the
Firestone–Ford tire tread separation debacle that began dominating business news in the fall of
2000, with implications for passenger safety that continue today.
Ask any consumer about the two most critical features of safety on their automobiles, and most will quickly respond—brakes and tires. It is not
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Roberts discovered that other attorneys, for example, Bruce Kaster of
Ocala, Florida, and Tab Turner of Little Rock,
Arkansas, had been suing Firestone for much of the decade over the same type of issue. Though a trial date for his case had not been set, Roberts was one of the first to sense the broad scope of potential tire defects. At that time, he reported that there had been more than 1,100 incident reports and 57 lawsuits by February 2000.4
NHTSA GETS INVOLVED
By February 2000, the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) had received fewer than 50 complaints over the better part of the previous decade about the suspect tires. It began to receive tips from State Farm Insurance that it was experiencing an unusually high number of insurance claims in which these tires were associated. After a report on tread separation accidents by Houston’s TV station KHOU, 30 to 40 more complaints came in. At this point, NHTSA got interested. They contacted Randy Roberts, and

Roberts was quite willing to help them do their work. He reported his findings about widespread complaints, and it is believed to have been a significant factor leading up to Firestone’s voluntary recall of 6.5 million possibly defective tires.
The voluntary recall began August 9, 2000, and it included the Radial ATX, Radial ATXII, and certain Wilderness AT tires.5
By September 2000, the recall had only replaced about 2 million tires. One reason was due to a shortage of replacement
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