Feb. 6, 2004 - Firestone Tires Under Fire Again

Suspicion of tire defect has prompted another investigation of Firestone's Steeltex tires.

William Robbins survived not one, but two accidents where his Firestone Steeltex tires exploded out of the blue. A mechanic by trade, Robbins knows a little something about tires. He suspected the Steeltex tires were defective, like Firestone Wilderness and ATX tires recalled in 2000. So he mailed them in to Firestone for their inspection.

Firestone quickly responded that the blowouts "did not result from a defect". The tire maker insisted Robbins must have hit a pothole or other obstacle causing the tire explosions.

But questions are being raised about Firestone's analysis, and whether it's trying to cover up a problem.

Alan Hogan, who helped expose defects leading to Firestone's 2000 recall, says he found obvious defects in all of Robbins' tires, even the ones that hadn't yet blown.

Firestone was ordered to preserve damaged tires in its legal custody so outside experts could inspect them as part of a giant lawsuit. But Firestone sent letters to hundreds of customers saying their tires would be returned to them or destroyed, not saved for evidence. Firestone admitted this letter to being a mistake, and no tires were actually destroyed. A judge ruled not to impose sanctions against Firestone for the mistake.

Firestone also insists it had no obligation to save tires like these for evidence if customers asked for their return, and had no obligation to tell them about the lawsuit.


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