The circus was in town in Washington last week, and it wasn't at all funny.
At the congressional hearings about the Ford Explorer-Firestone Wilderness AT tire fiasco, Ford Motor Co. was the 800-pound gorilla. Various congressmen were the clowns. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. was the guy in the audience who gets doused with a bucket of water.
>From Day 1 Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone should have been on the same page in responding to the crisis. Instead, Ford tried to distance itself from the problem from the start and now, fearful for the future of their brands, both companies are blaming each other. About the worse thing that could happen has-Congress became involved.
The latest hearings gave various congressmen ample opportunities to grandstand. Among them was Billy Tauzin, R-La., doing his best imitation of Joe McCarthy by saying he had information that some of the replacements for the Wilderness ATs have worse failure rates than the Firestone tire, but refusing to name them. And Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the senior Democrat on the committee, who happens to live in Dearborn, Mich., vigorously defending his patron and complaining about Tauzin's stunt. And Fred Upton, R-Mich., throwing kisses to Ford CEO Jacques Nasser for replacing the tires on a friend's vehicle in which his daughter was a rider.
It doesn't look good for Bridgestone/Firestone. There's no chance Ford ever will admit to design defects in the Explorer, no matter what the evidence. It will forever just blame Bridgestone/Firestone, which to Ford is ``just another supplier. Plenty more where they came from.''
Bridgestone/Firestone has no choice but to fight. The tire maker, however, can't win, can't break even and can't get out of the game.