Firestone and Ford: the Tire Tread Separation Strategy

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  • Topic: Ford Motor Company, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
  • Pages : 13 (4623 words )
  • Download(s) : 54
  • Published : May 26, 2013
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Firestone and ford: the tire tread separation strategy (case for discusiion for bba iii b on Tuesday 21 May 2013)

It is often tricky to know when an ethical orsocial issue really begins. Does it begin before it is “recognized” or “identified” as an issue? Does it begin when an isolated manager recognizes an incident or a trend and reports it via a memo to his superiors? Does it begin once the media get hold of information and the frenzy begins? Such questions arise in the case of the Firestone–Ford tire tread separation debacle that began dominating business news in the fall of 2000, with implications for passenger safety thatcontinue today. Ask any consumer about the two most critical features of safety on their automobiles, and most will quickly respond—brakes and tires. It is not surprising, then, that the tire tread separations that began appearing on certain categories of Firestone tires, especially those associated with the Ford Explorer, caught the public’s attention like few other recent product safety issues. Was this a tire problem or an SUV problem?Was this Firestone’s problem or Ford’s problem? Were both companies responsible for what happened? Were government regulations administered through the National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration (NHTSA) adequate to protect the public? These questions are simple to ask but difficult to answer because they are complex. Let’s start where the “public” knowledge of the product dangers began to surface—with a couple of accidents reported since 1998. TWO KEY ACCIDENTS

Jessica LeAnn Taylor was a 14-year-old junior high school cheerleader on the way to a homecoming football game near her hometown of Mexia, Texas, on October 16, 1998. She was in a Ford Explorer SUV, driven by a friend of her mother’s, when the tread on the left-rear Firestone ATX tire allegedly “peeled off like a banana,” leading the Explorer to veer left and roll over. Jessica died in this accident.1 In another incident, two years later, Victor Rodriguez and his family piled into the family’s Ford Explorer over Labor Day weekend and prepared to visit a sick aunt at a hospital in Laredo, Texas. As Rodriguez started down Interstate 35, he was startled by a thumping sound and looked in his rearview mirror to see the tread shredding off one of his Firestone Wilderness AT tires. Rodriguez was unable to control his vehicle. It flipped, ejecting five of its passengers. Among the passengers was his 10-year-old son, Mark Anthony, who died instantly.2 Jessica LeAnn Taylor and Mark Anthony Rodriguez were just two of many victims in a far-reaching safety crisis that, according to some accounts, had taken the lives of close to 90 Americans by fall 2000 and had “driven fear into the hearts of motorists” who had begun to think of the sport utility vehicle as the ideal family car. A KEY COURT VICTORY

A number of different people brought the tire safety/SUV tragedy to the public’s attention. One account gives the credit to Jessica Taylor’s family lawyer, Randy Roberts, because of his tenacity. Roberts was a small-town lawyer, and when he took the case, he realized there was not much hope of taking on a corporate giant such as Firestone, a unit of Japan’s Bridgestone Corporation. As many other tire companies have successfully done in the past, Firestone ruled out a tire problem at the veryoutset. It and other companies have been successful in keeping lawsuits and consumer complaint data confidential, or private, saying the Taylor accident was similar to only one other with which they were familiar. Randy Roberts did not buy this argument, and in November 1999, he won a crucial victory from state judge Sam Bournias, who ordered Firestone to turn over any information on complaints or other lawsuits, as well as employee depositions associated with these lawsuits concerning its ATX and Wilderness tires. The judge also permitted Roberts to share this information with other lawyers who were involved in similar lawsuits. Other...
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