Ford And Firestone Agree To Disagree

Auto giants disagree over who was responsible for killing joint customers... and move on.

Ford Motor Co. CEO William Clay Ford Jr. can be seen talking to his mother's family again, now that Firestone, the company that bears her maiden name, has rolled over and agreed to disagree over who was responsible for killing joint customers.

Japan's Bridgestone, which owns the Firestone brand, recently announced it will pay Ford US$240 million to help cover tire replacement costs in 2000 and 2001.

Back then, if you recall (pun intended), Firestone unit CEO John Lampe questioned the safety of Ford's Explorer, implying its design contributed hundreds of fatal rollover accidents involving Ford's cash-cow SUVs outfitted with Firestone treads. Former Ford boss Jacques Nasser responded by ordering 13 million tires not covered by Firestone's initial 6.5-million recall off the road. The collision of boardrooms ended a century-long partnership between companies founded by Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. To handle the rollover fiasco and family feud, Ford and Firestone's great-grandson Bill ousted Nasser.

The settlement, of course, admits nothing on either side. It's about PR, although it may be too late to help sell Explorers. After all, sky-high fuel prices have put a major dent into Ford's SUV sales, which is why the company posted a US$284-million third-quarter loss. Ironically, if things get any worse, Bill Ford himself could be recalled.