According to a report by Associated Press, Ford is moving quickly to settle accident cases involving Explorers with Firestone tyres. AP reported a lawyer as saying that the giant automaker had resolved at least six legal claims in a single day.

Bruce Kaster, a leading lawyer in defective tyre cases, told AP that Ford expressed "heartfelt condolences'' and embarrassment about tyre quality problems in settling six cases he was handling. Around 200 lawsuits have been filed against Ford and Firestone over tyre-related crashes.

Kaster told AP that he had arranged a series of one-hour sessions between Ford attorneys and his clients on Friday 22 December and that each meeting was completed with an agreement. He said he had never before seen so many cases resolved so quickly.

The agreements, and a seventh settlement handled by another lawyer, are confidential, but Kaster characterised them as fair and said they signalled a change in attitude by Ford.

Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel told AP that the settlements were not unusual for the automaker.

"Ford has committed significant resources to the prompt investigation and resolution of these cases,'' Krusel said. "We're working to resolve the claims against the company... and trying to do what's right for everyone involved.''

AP said that lawyer Kaster's cases all involved Firestone tyres, and all but one involved models included in Bridgestone/Firestone's August recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tyres.

Kaster told AP that claims against Bridgestone/Firestone are still pending involving the same accidents settled with Ford, and he is waiting for the tyre company to respond to his proposals.

"Firestone is still in the same mode they started in, and that being far behind Ford,'' Kaster said.

Firestone spokesman Cliff Haas told AP: ``We're always in contact with other attorneys in these cases, and I don't think there's anything to read into that one way or the other.''