The following statement in response to Bridgestone/Firestone's announcement of a recall of Firestone P235-75R15 ATX, ATX II and certain Wilderness AT tires is attributed to Helen Petrauskas, Ford vice president, Environmental and Safety Engineering.

Ford Motor Company has worked closely with Firestone to thoroughly investigate tire tread separation concerns. As we have repeatedly stated, we are absolutely committed to doing the right thing to protect our customers and to maintain their trust.

An analysis of field data by both companies and reviewed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that tires being recalled today account for the overwhelming majority of tread separation failures reported on Firestone tires.

After extensive review of the data, we are satisfied that Firestone has isolated the affected population of tires that should be recalled. We believe that the Wilderness AT produced since 1996 at Firestone's Aiken, S.C.; Joliette, Que.; Oklahoma City, O.K.; and Wilson, N.C. plants have an outstanding safety record. We have confidence in Wilderness AT tires produced at these plants.

NHTSA has not closed its investigation. But in the interest of customer safety, Firestone is not waiting to act and should be commended for its comprehensive and decisive action. We have been working with Firestone and NHTSA, and we strongly support Firestone in its voluntary recall and customer satisfaction actions. Firestone has long been, and continues to be, a valued supplier to Ford.

Ford Motor Company and its dealers will work with Firestone and its service centers to replace tires on our vehicles as quickly as possible. The safety campaign will concentrate first on customers in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas where more than 80 percent of the reported Firestone tread separations have occurred.

Maintaining tires at the appropriate air pressure is necessary to protect tires. Underinflated tires deteriorate more rapidly than tires that are properly maintained and are at an increased risk of tread separation, blowout or other failure.

At the request of Firestone, Ford has evaluated the performance of these tires at 30 psi and has determined that the vehicle maintains good performance characteristics at this higher pressure. Ford recommends that Explorer and Mountaineer customers with 15" Firestone tires maintain their tire pressure in the range of 26-30 psi.

Customers with other vehicles should check the door plate on their vehicle for recommended tire pressure and make sure that tire pressure does not fall below the recommended level. If customers have any questions about tire pressure or safe operation, they should contact their vehicle dealer or Firestone service center.

If customers have any questions about tire pressure or safe operation, they should contact a Firestone service center or their vehicle dealer. Firestone has established a toll-free number - (800) 465-1904 - for concerned customers. Ford Motor Company customers can call (800) 660-4719 or send a note to tireinquiry@ford.com for information on the recall and tire safety.