To say that John Lampe comes into his new post as Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. chairman and CEO in a difficult position is an understatement of enormous proportions.
Lampe is a good choice to replace Masatoshi Ono in trying to lead Bridgestone/Firestone forward. He's a company lifer who has lasted through the Firestone 500, survived the retrenchment of the 1980s and thrived during a 1990s resurrection under a foreign parent company. He has been on the front line of the recall battle and disagrees strongly with those who suggest the company—and especially the Firestone name—have no future.
His first official act of issuing an apology to those who suffered personal losses is a good first step. It recognizes that this whole recall issue isn't about statistics and numbers. People—and Congress—don't care that well over 99 percent of the company's tires at any given plant have had no problems. They care about the more than 100 people who've died in accidents involving tread separations and vehicle rollovers. In a situation like this, those are the only statistics that matter.
In his second act as CEO Lampe would be well-advised to make sure Bridgestone/Firestone does everything to get to the root cause of the tire separation problems. At this point, the controversy won't start going away until some answers are found.
The public quickly will tire of Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Co. trying to pass the blame back and forth. People deserve to know the truth—not just some plausible explanation meant to appease the public, but an honest-to-goodness reason that will reassure them that this type of tragedy won't happen again. Then and only then will there be a chance to rebuild any public trust in Bridgestone/Firestone.