U-Haul International Inc. is directing its stores not to rent trailers to owners of Ford Explorers, because of the company being drawn into Explorer-related litigation.
Tires, however, have not been mentioned in this action and won't be, according to spokespeople for U-Haul and Ford Motor Co.
Ford became the brunt of massive litigation-particularly surrounding its Ford Explorer model-after August 2000 and Bridgestone/Firestone's recall of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. Most of these tires were original equipment on Explorers and other Ford sport-utility vehicles.
U-Haul quietly introduced its new non-Explorer rental policy Dec. 22. A company spokeswoman said U-Haul had not considered banning trailer rentals to vehicles equipped with certain tires, and would not do so. "This policy was based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations," she said.
A Ford spokesman noted, and U-Haul confirmed, that U-Haul still rents trailers to owners of Mercury Mountaineers, which mechanically are nearly identical to Ford Explorers.
"They've been very clear that this is not based on safety concerns or any technical issue, but strictly on the litigation issue," the Ford spokesman said.
U-Haul never has mentioned tires to Ford in discussing the rental issue, he added. "We hope all the recalled Firestone tires have long ago been replaced, and all the current models have Goodyear tires," he said.
U-Haul and Bridgestone/Firestone settled a case in Texas last September involving three coeds who were injured in 1999 when their Ford Explorer-equipped with Firestone tires and towing a U-Haul trailer-went out of control and rolled over.
Bridgestone/Firestone declined comment on the latest action by U-Haul concerning Explorers.