Firestone still talks safety amid cries for more recalls

NASHVILLE, TN: Bridgestone/Firestone plans to stick with a PR

campaign stressing the safety of its tires despite a recent government

agency request for a new recall. The company also plans to continue

hammering at what it calls safety problems with the Ford Explorer.

"We have made a commitment to the public to talk about the safety of our

tires and about problems we have with the Ford Explorer," said Jill

Bratina, Firestone director of PR.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after a year-long

look at Firestone tires, is asking the company to recall more tires in

addition to the 6.5 million it recalled last year.

Firestone has refused, and is prepared to make its case about the safety

of its tires in public hearings the agency would hold, and in court,

Bratina said.

Crisis communications experts said Firestone has little choice PR-wise

but to keep defending the safety of its products now that it has made

the business decision not to comply with the NHTSA's recall request. "I

don't see what more they can do," said Bill Patterson, president of

Reputation Management Associates.

Forcing the NHTSA to hold hearings on a new recall could help Firestone,

said Larry Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management. If

the Firestone tires in question are safe, the lack of reports of new

accidents during a drawn-out hearing and court process will help build

credibility for Firestone's position. If more accidents do occur though,

"it could be the death knell for the brand," Smith added.

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