1998

Early in this year or possibly during the latter half of 1997 Ford receives its first reports of tread separation from a company fleet of Ford Explorers, fitted with 16" Wilderness AT tires, in Saudi Arabia.

July -- Samuel Boyden, Associate Research Administrator for State Farm, transmits an e-mail to William Duckwitz, NHTSA liaison with State Farm. This e-mail contains data from State Farm that shows repeated tread separations on Firestone 15" ATX tires from 1994 through the middle of 1998. It appears that this e-mail was forwarded to Stephen Beretzky, NHTSA tire analyst.

1999

Early in this year Ford salesmen in Saudi Arabia receive reports of tread separations on Ford Explorers used for recreational or personal use. Upon receiving this information in Dearborn, a team is established to analyze the problem. This team, along with representatives of Firestone, goes to Saudi Arabia to review the tires and the circumstances under which they failed.

Mid-year, Samuel Boyden of State Farm, contacts William Duckwitz of NHTSA, and verbally updates him about an upward trend of tread separations with Firestone 15" ATX tires. It appears that Mr. Duckwitz does not pass this information on to Stephen Beretzky, NHTSA tire analyst.

July - Sept. -- Ford replaces Firestone 16" Wilderness AT tires in the Middle East with Goodyear 16" tires. Ford changes the tires on 6,768 vehicles at their own expense. Firestone tells Ford that they believe there is nothing wrong with the tires and no change is required.

November -- Because of the incidents in Saudi Arabia with the 16" tires, Ford asks Firestone to commence a test of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers in the U.S. This test becomes known as the "Southwest Study" as it is conducted in the states of Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. Dealers ask consumers who bring in Ford Explorers with high-mileage tires to allow these tires to be changed at Ford’s expense. The tires procured by these dealers are used for the study conducted by Ford. Ford similarly acquires high mileage tires through some of their leased Explorers. These tires are studied by the Firestone experts. Firestone investigators examine 243 tires, primarily through visual inspection, but some are cut apart for a more thorough review. Firestone also sends a few of these tires to Ford so that their investigators can cut them apart for study. The study is completed in April of 2000. Neither Firestone nor Ford investigators are able to detect a problem among this sample of tires.

December -- Samuel Boyden, State Farm, contacts William Duckwitz, NHTSA, and verbally communicates to him data demonstrating a continuing upward trend of the Firestone 15" ATX tire tread separations. Once again, it appears that the information is not passed on to Stephen Beretzky, NHTSA tire analyst.

At the end of this year, a Firestone audit in Venezuela discovers mislabeled tires are being manufactured at that plant.

2000

February -- Houston, Texas TV station KHOU does a story on tread separation of Firestone tires used on Ford Explorers. The TV station gives the NHTSA 800 telephone number for consumers to report complaints. Consumers start calling in with reports of tread separations on Firestone tires.

February 16 -- Due to reports similar to those in Saudi Arabia, Ford replaces Firestone ST6 tires at their own expense with Goodyear tires on 316 vehicles in Malaysia and Taiwan. Firestone once again informs Ford that they believe there is nothing wrong with the tires and that no change is required.

March 6 -- Based on the information NHTSA has received, primarily from complaints stemming from the Houston, Texas TV story, the agency begins its Initial Evaluation (IE) of Firestone tires.

April -- "Southwest Study" is completed but no evidence of a problem is discovered.

May -- Ford replaces Firestone 15" and 16" tires on 40,000 vehicles in Venezuela with Goodyear tires at their own expense (99% of all recalled tires are produced at Firestone’s Venezuela plant). Once again Firestone informs Ford they do not believe there is anything wrong with the tires and that no change is required.

May 2 -- NHTSA officially opens its investigation with Preliminary Evaluation (PE-0020), regarding allegations of excessive Firestone tire tread separations primarily found on Ford Explorers.

May 10 -- NHTSA sends letters to Ford and Firestone requesting information in connection with PE-0020.

June 8 -- Ford requests that Firestone provide all information that they gave to NHTSA relating to PE-0020. This information includes the claims data that will demonstrate the high accident rate of the tires.

July 28 -- Ford receives Firestone’s information sent to NHTSA, including the claims data from Firestone on the 15" ATX and ATX II, 15" Wilderness AT, and 16" Wilderness AT tires. Ford begins analysis of this data.

August 4 -- Ford’s analysis of the claims data shows an upward trend in tread separations in the 15" ATX and ATX II produced in North America, and 15" Wilderness AT tires produced at the Decatur, Illinois, plant. Ford notifies Firestone and after jointly reviewing the claims data, both companies agree to contact NHTSA.

August 8 -- Firestone and Ford contact NHTSA on the need for a tire recall.

August 9 -- Firestone announces the recall of all North American produced P235/75R15 15" ATX and ATX II tires. They also recall P235/75R15 15" Wilderness AT tires produced at the Decatur, Illinois, plant. From 1991 to the present, Firestone has produced 14.4 million tires, but estimates that only 6.5 million are still on the road today.

August 9 -- NHTSA announces that it will continue its investigation into the crashes that have killed 46 people even though Firestone announced its recall.

August -- Ford and Firestone begin analyzing tires received from the recall. This analysis includes cutting them apart to see if the root cause of the tread belt separations can be determined.

August 11 -- Rep. John Dingell sends a letter to Mr. Masatoshi Ono, Chairman and CEO, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., asking Firestone to reimburse consumers who replace their recalled tires with other name brand tires. An August 16th response is requested.

August 15 -- Eight Ford investigators arrive at Firestone’s Decatur, Illinois, plant. Also at the plant are investigators from Bridgestone/Firestone U.S. and from the world headquarters in Japan.

August 16 -- Firestone announces that it will reimburse consumers for recalled tires that were replaced at the owner’s expense between January 1, 2000 and August 16, 2000, but that they will not be reimbursing customers after August 16th.

August 16 -- A Kentucky court orders Firestone to continue the reimbursement of customers for replacing the recalled tires until Firestone can prove that they should do otherwise. The order goes into effect on August 17, 2000. In the days following this order, Firestone files a motion to move the case to Federal Court. The Federal Court has until September 14, 2000, to make its ruling in this matter.

August 17 -- Firestone agrees to reimburse consumers who replace their recalled tires with a competitor’s tires.

August 17 -- Rep. Dingell sends a letter to NHTSA Administrator Susan Bailey asking whether or not other tires produced at Firestone's Decatur, Illinois, plant should be recalled.

August 21 -- Ford announces that it is suspending production of the Explorer at three of its plants so as to free up 70,000 tires for the recall.

August 22 -- Firestone announces that it will be airlifting tires from Japan to assist in the recall.

August 22 -- With the discovery of the mislabeled tires in Venezuela, Ford asks Firestone to review which tires are mislabeled and to recall any and all tires that do not meet proper specifications. See Firestone’s answer on August 25, 2000.

August 24 -- Committee investigators meet with NHTSA for the first time.

August 25 -- Firestone sends word to Ford that they do not believe that it is necessary to recall any tires in Venezuela.

August 25 -- Committee investigators visit Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

August 28 -- Committee investigators visit Firestone headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

August 30 -- Venezuela’s Institute for the Defense and Education of Consumers (INDECU) releases a report that states that it is their belief that Firestone Venezuela and Ford Venezuela covered up the dangers of the Firestone tires. Because of this, the INDECU believes that both Firestone Venezuela and Ford Venezuela are at fault for the injuries and accidents that occurred due to tire separation.

August 30 -- NHTSA and Firestone meet to discuss NHTSA’s concerns of tread separation found in other tires produced by Firestone not under recall.

August 31 -- After Firestone reviews NHTSA’s data on tread separation on other Firestone tires, they inform NHTSA that they do not believe that a recall is needed.

August 31 -- NHTSA reports that they now have linked 88 deaths to crashes involving Firestone tires.

August 31 -- Rep. Dingell writes to NHTSA asking when it first received information concerning problems with the Firestone tires.

August 31 -- NHTSA upgrades PE-0020 to an Engineering Analysis (EA), the next step in NHTSA’s investigation.

September 1 -- NHTSA releases a list of Firestone tires, universe being approximately 1.4 million, that they believe consumers should replace. Many of these tires were produced years ago and are unlikely to still be in use, but in the event a consumer is still using them, NHTSA recommends replacement. The replacement of these tires would be at the consumers expense as Firestone has not initiated a recall. NHTSA also recommends steps to be taken by consumers to prevent the possible acceleration of tread separation.

September 3 -- Fleishman-Hillard International Communications Inc., resigns from the position they have held since July of this year as the public relations firm for Firestone.

September 4 -- Firestone announces the recall of 15" and 16" Wilderness AT tires produced in Venezuela. (There are 62,000 tires in this universe.) Firestone’s decision to recall comes after a weekend of negotiations with INDECU.

September 6 -- Commerce Committee hearing is scheduled.

September 14 -- Ruling is due on whether the case will be moved from Kentucky court to Federal Court.