Firestone and Ford: the Tire Tread Separation Tragedy

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Firestone and Ford: The Tire Tread Separation Tragedy
Business Ethics

November 8, 2011

Executive summary.
Firestone/Bridgestone and Ford companies caught public negative attention in the end of 1990s because of their relation to tire tread separation cases, which caused numerous car accidents not only in US, but also abroad. Because they did not take proper actions to eliminate the number of this cases and remove all dangerous products from the market timely, even if they knew that something was wrong, it lead to injuries, rollovers and even deaths. In this work I tried to investigate what were the reasons of this crisis, what action, that caused this scandal, had been undertaken or had not been undertaken, who were those that influenced it and who is responsible for injured people. Introduction.

100 years long relations between global tire manufacturer Bridgestone/Firestone and world-known automobile producer Ford Motors were ended after a huge scandal with car accidents and rollovers, where Ford's Explorer was equipped with Firestone tires. The second largest recall of tires in the history of US, which aroused because of the more than 200 deaths only in United States related to Firestone tires and Ford's Explorer SUV, still remains in the memory of people. Many of the recalled tires were equipped to Ford's Explorer, however both companies were denying their fault. Thus, disputable questions appeared with regard to the question, who is morally responsible and whose mistake lead to such numerous fatalities and injuries. Reasons of tire tread.

Launched in 1990, from 1990 to 2001 Ford's Explorer was the best selling SUV on the market. Firestone tires were made with taking into considerations specifications of Explorer (Moll, 2003). Also Firestone tried to participate in the modification of Explorer to improve its instability and weight distribution, to use smaller tires or widen wheel base, however Ford's management team decided not to do that, and just to make tire tread air pressure lower, than it was recommended by Firestone, despite all arguments of Firestone. The Explorer's problems were decided to be solved simply by lowering air pressure. Thus, too much pressure could force tire's belts to separate. Later this decision will be considered as one of the factors that influenced tire tread separation. The design of Ford explorer also could be the reason that lead the car to roll over, because of the not equally distributed weight. Later Firestone was asked to reduce components so tires became lighter on 10 percent and the wheel's friction with the road was less and ride was smoother for the customers' convenience (Moll, 2003). Talking about other factors that could influence tire separation, we can highlight high temperature, because it has been investigated that more than 90 percent of all accidents with Ford and Firestone happened in areas with high temperature (O'Rourke, 2004). Also it is considered that manufacturing problems could reduce the quality of produced tires. For example, on Decatur plant, Illinois. This plant was very important for Firestone because it was its third largest plant and one of every 400 produced tires were returned after tread separation by 2000. During the long strike on Decatur and two other plants, Firestone/Bridgestone had to hire temporary replacement workers, whose skills and qualification were under a big doubts, that could be the cause of defective and unsafe tires. The higher failure rate is referred to the times when the company was facing strikes. (Krueger & Mas, 2004). Actions performed.

However the consequences of tire tread separations and car accidents that already happened were irresistible, both companies could react faster to prevent further injuries and somehow save their image and brand. Instead of being active and cooperating to eliminate unsafe and defected products and develop crisis management plans, they were pointing fingers on each other,...
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