Bridgestone/Firestone’s recall on August 9 prompted an explosion of media attention into the causes and liabilities for the tire failures, which were cited in nearly 50 accidents this year. Tire underinflation was the cause suggested by most Firestone spokespeople, which shifted the blame onto the consumer.
Bridgestone/Firestone’s recall on August 9 prompted an explosion of
media attention into the causes and liabilities for the tire failures,
which were cited in nearly 50 accidents this year. Tire underinflation
was the cause suggested by most Firestone spokespeople, which shifted
the blame onto the consumer.
CARMA International’s research of media coverage just prior to and
following the recall found most media reporting Firestone’s claim that
the tires were safe, blaming underinflation and heat for the blowouts.
’We believe that these tires, when properly inflated and maintained, are
among the safest on the road,’ said Bridgestone/Firestone EVP Gary
Crigger (The Washington Post, August 10).
Coral Gables attorney Ralph Patino, representing several families in
lawsuits involving the tires, lambasted Firestone: ’To... recall, but
not admit there’s a problem, that is a farce. Let’s not admit there’s a
defect. Let’s blame it on the consumer’ (Sun-Sentinel, August 10).
Reports of Ford’s removal of Firestone tires from Explorers in many
countries outside the US increased criticism from consumer safety groups
that the companies knew of the problem long ago. Ford said the tire
problems in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela were due to
off-road driving and underinflation.
Journalists did recognize that the companies are now doing everything
possible to replace recalled tires. Firestone spokespeople were often
quoted on their commitment to replace the tires, even if it meant going
to the competition. ’No matter how many tires, no matter how many miles,
we will replace them with new tires,’ said Crigger (Newsday, August
Many reports focused on pending legal difficulties and regulatory
challenges facing Firestone and Ford, possibly explaining their
reluctance to accept liability for the tire failures. Many journalists
interviewed families who had been involved in crashes, and their lawyers
see the recall as an admission of guilt. ’Any time a manufacturer
initiates a recall, it becomes an admission of liability,’ said Sean
Kane, president of Strategic Safety (Los Angeles Times, August 10).
Reports also noted that Sears and others were taking Firestone lines off
shelves, usually in the context of discussing consumer dissatisfaction
with execution of the recall and reluctance to accept the brand as a
Consumers described waiting in long lines for appointments, and
Firestone retailers were quoted as being uninformed as to how to handle
Said one customer, ’I checked my tires, and you can see the lines around
them where they’re beginning to separate. They said the earliest they
could give me was August 29’ (Orlando Sentinel, August 10).
While Firestone was certainly in the middle of media frenzy, the high
percentage of Ford Explorers donning the tires also pulled the automaker
into the fray. ’This recall damages two brands at the same time,’ said
image consultant Clive Chajet (Wall Street Journal, August 10). As
officials tried to find the cause of the blowouts, the media seemed to
search for a place to lay blame, leaving both companies little recourse
but to defend past decisions and announce plans to solve the
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found