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The ongoing saga between Ford and Bridgestone has been a good one because it has drawn comments and responses from such a wide variety of media sources, domestic and worldwide. Prior to September 11, these two were in the news about as much as Microsoft and Congressman Gary Condit.

With the recently announced settlement between Bridgestone and the courts, the news value of this story seems to be waning. The firing of Jacques Nasser as Ford CEO renewed interest in the story since it is generally agreed it was his handling of the Ford Explorer rollover problem that got him the ax. I'm sure he wasn't the only person at Ford who thought laying all the blame on the rollover problem at the feet of its longtime tire supplier was the best solution.

More fallout from this is taking place in Congress, where a mandated tire pressure monitoring system is being developed. This is related because the Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act is basically the legislative response to the Ford/Bridgestone problem. But the battle this time pits most of the tire manufacturers against the auto-mobile assemblers.

It should not be surprising that the auto assemblers believe they know more about tire engineering and manufacturing than the people who actually design, engineer, manufacture and test tires. But they do, and they are telling those drafting the standards for the upcoming tire pressure monitoring systems which will be standard equipment by 2004. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers did this recently at a hearing where it rebuffed nearly every point the Rubber Manufacturers Association made. The RMA's position is supported by most tire related groups.

It seems the auto companies think that a tire 20-25% under the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure poses no risk. Wasn't it Ford that ignored Bridgestone's recommended pressure settings and lowered the rating for the Explorer? The tire makers need to remain firm and not waver from what they consider safe. If the auto assemblers want a system that is not safe, let them assume the liability. Bridgestone's problems stemmed from supplying Ford a tire it specified.
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Author:Smith, Don R.
Publication:Rubber World
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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