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The Ford-Firestone Case: Large-Scale Controversy


Ford-Firestone case is a large-scale controversy related to the tire company Firestone and the Ford Motor Company. The event itself concerns a period where an increased number of tread separations were reported in tires by Firestone. The event first gained traction in 1998, when an insurance agent has researched cases of tread separation, finding that Firestone tires from at least 1992 were involved in an abundance of incidents. After several complaints about tire issues and the Houston TV coverage, the NHTSA has begun an investigation into the topic, launching a formal investigation of Firestone tires. An examination of 47 million tires made by Firestone throughout 1990 to 2000 revealed.

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The investigation found that the majority of incidents with Firestone tires caused rollovers, with at least 68 fatalities. Most of the incidents were with Ford Explorers, which come pre-installed with Firestone tires. After the examination, in august of 2000, Firestone issued a mass recall of their Wilderness tires. The products included in the recall were originally installed, on Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Ranger, Ford F-series Light Trucks, Ford Bronco, Mazda B series, and Mazda Navajo (The Ford-Firestone Case). The three-part recall procedures were aimed to be completed in 6 months, which was stated to be the quickest the company could take. The CEO of Ford insisted that the process is too drawn-out and proposed for customers to receive compensation for buying new tires instead (The Ford-Firestone Case). The recall was a major business loss for Firestone, and the company has lost its high place on the market and severed long-standing relations with Ford.

Who is at fault for exploding tires?

Both companies, Ford and Firestone have to take a part of the blame for exploding tires. The case is more complicated than it might seem at first, with the surrounding circumstances playing a large part in the proceeding events. Firestone, as the manufacturer of tires, has to bear most of the blame, as their negligence resulted in the production of unreliable tires that are prone to tread separation. Tread separation is a problem that occurs unexpectedly and has no countermeasures or preparation methods against it. This means that the car owners and drivers cannot take responsibility for the tires exploding. The article on the case notes that specific problems during manufacturing might have been the cause for poor product quality. A strike in the Decatur plant is suspected to have led to poor work performance and quality control. At least 40 percent of recalled tires were made on that particular plant, which suggests a strong correlation between its performance and the recall (The Ford-Firestone Case). After the strike the company has also readjusted its schedule, calling for a 12/7 work shift, which contributed to worker exhaustion and poor performance (The Ford-Firestone Case). From Ford’s side of the issue, the problem stems from the poor adaptability between Ford Explorer and Firestone tires. An expert on the issue pointed out that the peculiarities in Ford Explorer’s construction might have contributed to its increased chance of rollovers. It is also noted that the load of the car disproportionally puts pressure on the left side of the car, where most of the tires were recorded exploding.

Ethical violations from Ford or Firestone

In concern of ethical violations, it is evident that Ford should be held up to scrutiny. While the accidents have started to attract publicity towards the 2000s, with an increasing number of complaints, the tread separation was reported to be an issue even earlier. Reports as early as 1996 were made, with 26 tire-related death recorded (The Ford-Firestone Case). While the company has known about the issue for several years, before the large-scale investigation no recall efforts or acknowledgments of the issue were made. The Ford company has ignored the issue until it had no choice but to step in. Even then, Ford expressed no incentive to take the blame or examine its products, instead of shifting responsibility onto Firestone (Seglin, 2001). In direct response to the irresponsible behavior of tire and automobile manufacturers, the NHTSA has released the TREAD act, which is aimed at increasing public safety (The TREAD Act 2002).

Application to a different situation

Several lessons can be extracted from the case in question. Manufacturing companies and corporations are shown to be aversive to change, seeking to secure profits before ensuring proper testing and quality control for their products. Systematic negligence can lead to sustained problems affecting a large number of people. Even when faced with the direct results of company mismanagement, corporations are likely to minimize their role in the events and try to shift the blame onto their customers and partner. This is perfectly exemplified in Ford’s shifting the blame to Firestone’s involvement and the fact that Firestone themselves stated that their tires are safe. The Ford company has also made several attempts to impede congress investigations and present highly embellished data. It is also important to note that regulatory organizations such as NHTSA have also been lax in conducting investigations into public inquiries. The initial inquiry about at least 21 cases of tread separation was ignored, and subsequent reports yielded no result until the Houston news coverage.


The TREAD Act. (2002). Web.

Seglin, J. L. (2001). A Blame Game Hurts Both Ford and Firestone. The New York Times. Web.

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