Firestone
tyres made in Decatur appear to have higher failure rates than tyres made at Firestone’s
other plants because most of them were on Ford Explorers distributed in the southeast
and southwest parts of the U.S., according to testimony of Robert Martin, a Firestone
vice president of Quality Assurance who retired earlier this year.

Overwhelming reports of tyre failure in the southeast and southwest prompted
Firestone and Ford to recall 6.5 million tyres in August of this year. The recall
was limited to include only 15-inch Wilderness tyres made in Decatur and 15-inch
ATX and ATX II tyres.

"Mr. Martin’s testimony is the first time that a representative of either
Ford or Firestone has publicly admitted that blaming all the bad tyres on the
Decatur plant is unfounded. As we have insisted from the outset, Wilderness
tyres — regardless of plant origin — are all of the same design, all made
the same way, and all suffer from the same defect. Telling the American public
that it’s safe to ride on these tyres is wrong, misleading and irresponsible,"
said Little Rock, Arkansas attorney Tab Turner.

Turner is Safetyforum.com’s "Attorney of Record" for tyres and participated
in the deposition taken in Nashville.

Turner emphasised that his words of caution apply even to replacement Firestone
Wilderness tyres installed during Firestone’s recall. Firestone recently announced
that it is nearing completion of its recall.

"All they’ve done is given people a false sense of safety and security.
All of these tyres are defective, regardless of size, age or plant origin,"
Turner said.

A Safetyforum.com review of 80 lawsuits for which the source plants for both
the tyres and vehicles are known, tends to confirm Martin’s testimony.

Virtually all of the lawsuits are in hot southern or western states. About
one third of the vehicles were Explorers made in St. Louis. Decatur tyres were
on 83% of those vehicles. Only 42 percent of the Explorers from Louisville had
tyres from Decatur.

The Washington Post reported last Friday that a Ford spokesman "confirmed
that officials in the truck division thought that generally most of the Explorers
built in (St. Louis) went to the west, while Louisville, Kentucky-built Explorers
went to the East."

Firestone’s Martin, who retired in April, explained during a recent deposition
that the impression that Decatur is the source of most defective Wilderness
tyres is a statistical aberration.

He attributed the over representation of Decatur tyres to Firestone and Ford’s
distribution patterns. Most of the Decatur tyres were shipped to Ford’s Explorer
plant in St. Louis, Missouri. Most Explorers made in St. Louis are shipped to
the southeast and southwest where extreme heat hastens the tyres’ deterioration.

Martin testified that, "There are two plants that built Explorer vehicles.
One is in Louisville and one is in St. Louis. And from a sheer logistics point
of view, the Decatur tyres would go to the St. Louis-built vehicles more so
than Louisville and those vehicles more so would go west and south."

When asked to explain why there appeared to be a higher percentage of failures
coming out of the Decatur plant as opposed to the other plants, Martin responded,
"I believe I answered that previously. About what would cause it … I
talked about distribution, the assembly plants that were provided by our company.
Decatur to St. Louis, Wilson to Louisville, distribution of those vehicles to
the Southwest, Southeast."

Turner reiterated, "We have contended from the outset that the public
needs to know this type of information in order to make an informed decision
about whether families should be using Wilderness AT tyres on any vehicle regardless
of the plant of origin or whether they were original or replacement tyres installed
during the recall. Telling the public that its safe to continue to carry families
on these tyres so long as they did not come from Decatur is simply irresponsible
conduct."