Saturday, August 12, 2000

Tristate last area for recall

Firestone replacements could take up to a year

By Randy Tucker and Sarah Anne Wright
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The rubber might soon literally hit the road for some Tristate residents whose old tires have been recalled by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

        As a result of the voluntary recall, the Nashville-based tire company has authorized local dealers to replace defective tires with new tires, for free, regardless of the condition of the old tires.

        But there's a catch.

        After local dealers deplete their inventories of replacement tires, it could take more than a year before they receive new shipments from the company.

        That's because the company has decided to phase in the recall of the tires, which have been linked to accidents and deaths involving tread separation in several states.

        The phase-in will begin in Texas, Arizona, Florida and California, the states where most of the problems have been detected, Bridgestone/Firestone said.

        A second phase will begin in seven southern states.

        Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana will be in the third and final phase of the recall.

        The move to phase in the recall led one area motorist to levy some harsh criticisms against the tire giant.

        “Would the president of Firestone drive his family around on defective tires for a year?” asked Chris “Toby” Wehby, co-owner of Toby's, a deli at 312 Elm St., downtown.

        “We're not talking about a muffler,” Mr. Wehby said. “When you're talking about bad tires, you're talking about somebody's life being at stake. There can't be a delay in the recall.”

        At least one local Firestone retailer said his hands are tied.

        “It's a corporate situation, and they're handling it,” said Russ Brogan, of Brogan Oil Inc. — a licensed Firestone dealer on Glenway Avenue, Price Hill. “It's not like they're telling people to go to hell.”

        Delays in replacing the defective tires “might be a little inconvenient, but they're doing the best they can,” Mr. Brogan said.

        The Firestone Wilderness AT tires on Mr. Wehby's 1999 Ford Explorer are one of the brands included in the recall. He said he plans to visit a Firestone dealer next week to find out whether his particular tires are affected.

        About 70 percent of the recalled tires were installed on Ford Explorers.

        Bridgestone/Firestone has agreed to reimburse Ford dealers for replacing recall tires on their vehicles, even if the recall tires are replaced with different brands.

        But that's not good enough for Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley: “If the tires are dangerous, nobody who lives in Ohio or Kentucky should have to wait a year to have them replaced.”

        Mr. Chesley said he is “looking very hard at probably bringing some action to prevent this delay.”


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