"The customer is always right" is a philosophy that must have been invented by auto makers for their suppliers. That's why the open warfare between Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Ford Motor Co. is so extraordinary.
Fighting publicly with an automotive customer—no, change that, fighting at all with one of them—is virtually unheard of. Kowtowing to every whim of the auto giant, be it pricing, quality control or specifications, is the price of admission to the high-volume business.
Of course Ford is blaming Bridgestone/Firestone for the Firestone Wilderness AT tire/Ford Explorer debacle. Firestone, and its successor Bridgestone/Firestone, has been a prime supplier of tires to Ford for a century. You don't earn that kind of longevity record with an auto maker by being an independent-thinking, extremely principled supplier. No, you get there by doing what you are told.
Ford has had a consistent message since this story began—"Not our fault." Like a faithful dog, Bridgestone/Firestone bowed its head and took the heat at first. When it got too hot, the tire maker began to dispute Ford's stance. Now, its "save your own skin time." The customer-supplier relationship is in tatters, with Ford replacing 13 million Firestone tires "for safety's sake," and Bridgestone/Firestone ending its relationship with the auto maker and suggesting the government investigate the Explorer.
If close friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone were alive today, this would kill them.