NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Bridgestone/Firestone has launched a campaign to get motorists to return any remaining tires from two recalls, a month after a safety group asked a federal agency to investigate the original BFS recall campaigns.
BFS announced July 21 it will renew its informational campaign to get motorists to return ATX and Wilderness tires replaced for free with new tires.
The BFS announcement came after Sean Kane, president of the Rehoboth, Mass.-based safety group Safety Research & Strategies Inc., wrote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking the agency to open an inquiry on the BFS recall.
BFS had retrieved more than 6.3 million of the 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires it recalled in August 2000.
"That´s an amazing return on recalled products," a company spokeswoman said.
Some tires still are turning up as spares, and the accidents these tires have caused prompted BFS to take further measures to make sure they´re off the road, she said.
The tire maker is seeking tires recalled in 2000 and those left over from the 768,000 further sought in a voluntary replacement program from October 2001, said Mike Kane, BFS vice president of quality assurance, in a company statement. He said recall campaigns rarely recover 100 percent of the products involved.
Safety Research & Strategies´ Kane presented NHTSA with data about four crashes caused by recalled Firestone tires that were used as spares rather than returned to BFS.
Those tread separation-rollover accidents, according to Kane, caused one fatality and three catastrophic injuries that rendered the victims quadriplegic.
"There are many reasons spare tires may not have been captured during the recalls and owner notification program," he said. "Of more immediate importance is ensuring that the remaining recalled tires are removed from vehicles before they cause serious harm because time has rendered them an even greater hazard to the public."
Kane´s data was widely reported by the print and broadcast media.
BFS decided on its new course of action after discussions with NHTSA, the company spokeswoman said.
"It would be disingenuous of us to say our consultations with NHTSA weren´t motivated by Sean Kane," she said. Nevertheless, she said, the company is renewing its recall notification campaign because it´s the right thing to do.
"We agreed we wouldn´t do anything just to do something," she said. "If we could do something that would be useful to consumers, we would do it, and this is the only thing we could think of that would be useful."
The new information campaign will be in two simultaneous parts, the company said. The first part involves sending letters to current registered U.S. owners of the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Mazda Navajo SUVs on which the recalled tires were original equipment.
"Many of those drivers weren´t the owners of those vehicles at the time of the first recall," the spokeswoman said. The new letters will urge those drivers to check their tires to see if they are included in the recall, and if so, to take them to any Firestone Complete Auto Care, ExpertTire, Tires Plus, Hibdon Tire or Wheel Works store for a free replacement.
The second part involves letters to every Firestone company-owned store and participating authorized Firestone dealer, reminding them to be on the lookout for any recalled tires that are still on vehicles.
Kane said he was pleased at the news of the notification program, but wished it would include small independent garages that repair the SUVs in question.
This isn´t the first time BFS has renewed its call for the return of the recalled tires, the spokeswoman said. As part of a class action settlement in 2003, the company printed ads in high-profile magazines, reminding the public of the recall.
She didn´t estimate how many of the recalled tires might still be in service, but said there couldn´t be many because of the success of the original recall and the passage of six years since then.