- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2000

Ford Chairman Jacques Nasser performed a candid exercise in damage-control on Thursday stating flatly to reporters that there is, indeed, a problem with certain Firestone tires and that the automotive giant he heads "will find the bad tires and replace the bad tires" no matter what. Mr. Nasser also announced that he will testify in person at the upcoming congressional hearings scheduled to be held next week.

This is a laudable step in easing justified and growing concern about catastrophic tire failures that have resulted in more than 60 deaths and scores of serious injuries during the past several years.

But Mr. Nasser was quick to qualify his remarks in one very significant respect. "I'm sorry these defective tires are on some of our vehicles," he said. "But this is a tire issue, not a vehicle issue," he added defending the basic safety and engineering soundness of the popular Ford Explorer SUV. The Explorer has been involved in most of the accidents in which tire failure was a major factor and critics of SUVs in general have seized upon public concern over the tire failures to paint the Explorer (and by dint of association, other SUVs) as "inherently unsafe."

Mr. Nasser effectively repudiated these baseless innuendoes by carefully noting that "half a million" Explorers equipped with non-Firestone tires experienced "no problems" whatsoever. The media in general has been remiss in pointing out this critical fact in the reportage surrounding the tire fiasco. People should be aware that there are certain parties out there who are simply gunning for SUVs and will use any pretext to attack these hugely popular vehicles. The bottom line is that factual distortions of safety-related issues opens the gate to similar attacks on other vehicles, too.

Mr. Nasser concluded his remarks by pointing out that Ford never "hid anything" in terms of the nature of the problem and that the automaker was "actively" taking steps to address the issue of tire failures "well ahead of any recall or government action." This is all quite true. Now, this matter must be remedied soon before more innocent people pay for someone else's negligence with their lives.

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