The following can be attributed to Continental General Tire, Inc.:

Continental General Tire, Inc. is today announcing a customer satisfaction program affecting approximately 140,000 16" original equipment ContiTrac AS (P245/75R16) tires, mounted on about 38,000 Lincoln Navigators, model years 1998 and 1999. There are also approximately 20,000 tires in the replacement market, which will also be eligible for this program.

The tires will be replaced without cost to Lincoln Navigator customers. This customer satisfaction program does not apply to any Continental 17" ContiTrac AS (P255/75R17) tires on the Lincoln Navigator. Continental General Tire is the exclusive tire supplier to the Lincoln Navigator.

This program was developed in full cooperation with Lincoln and we are working in close coordination to implement the program. Continental General Tire and Lincoln representatives met today with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to present them with our data and review the action we are taking.

Both Continental General Tire and Lincoln want to emphasize that this action is not a safety-related recall. In fact, Lincoln Navigators exclusively equipped with Continental tires have an excellent safety record. There have not been any serious accidents, injuries or deaths resulting from tires on Lincoln Navigators. There is no litigation.

We are initiating this customer satisfaction program because a small percentage of 16" ContiTrac AS tires on the Lincoln Navigator are more susceptible to heat stress that can cause a condition described as belt lift in the shoulder area of the tire. Under certain conditions, this belt lift could cause a section of the tread belt package to detach from the tire casing and minor vehicle body damage could result. There have not been any reports of catastrophic tire failures causing loss of vehicle control. More often than not, the condition is detected when vehicle owners noticed irregular tread wear, vibration or noise.

The warranty adjustment data and property damage claims data clearly demonstrate that the condition exists only in 16" ContiTrac AS tires manufactured prior to March of 1998. At that time, before data indicated increased warranty claims and before the belt lift condition was manifest, Continental General Tire made modifications in the manufacturing process of the tire, changing the profile of the extruded tread. The changes were made to improve the uniformity of the tire and we have seen that it also increased the ability of this tire to handle heat stress that normally affects tire durability.

Bernd Frangenberg, President and CEO of Continental General Tire said: "We will not compromise the safety of our customers. We are taking this initiative, together with Lincoln, because of our dedication to customer satisfaction. We welcome the pending legislative initiatives to improve automotive safety, and we look forward to an open, cooperative relationship with NHTSA to expedite any investigation into this matter."

Though all Navigators built between January 1997 and March 1998 are subject to the program Continental will be replacing only:

Continental ContiTrac AS P245/75R16
DOT No: AD70 449 017 through AD70 449 118

Continental General Tire will provide following tires as replacements:
ContiTrac AS P245/75R16
Grabber AW P255/70R16
Ameri 660 AS P255/70R16

We encourage all owners of 1998 and 1999 Lincoln Navigators to visit their local Lincoln dealer for tire inspection and, if necessary, free tire replacement, including mounting and balancing. We are shipping and overnighting tires to Lincoln dealers, and we anticipate all replacements will be completed within eight weeks. We also encourage Navigator owners to see Continental General Tire dealers.