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Old 10-13-2005, 01:08   #1 (permalink)
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US:Bridgestone to pay Ford $240 million in failure feud

Bridgestone to pay Ford $240 million in failure feud

By Bill Koenig / Bloomberg News

Bridgestone Corp., the world's second-biggest tiremaker, agreed to pay Ford Motor Co. $240 million to end a five-year dispute over which company was responsible for tire failures in Ford sport utility vehicles.

The settlement covers costs of a 2000 voluntary tire recall by Bridgestone's North American unit and Ford's 2001 replacement of Firestone-brand tires made by Bridgestone, the tiremaker said in a statement Wednesday. The fight began after 271 people died in highway accidents involving the separation of treads on Firestone-brand tires equipped on Ford vehicles.

The agreement ends a publicly fought dispute and removes a distraction for Ford CEO Bill Ford Jr., who is trying to end losses at the automaker's North American operations. A U.S. investigation into the highway deaths damaged the reputation of Ford's best-selling Explorer SUV, which was predominantly involved in the accidents.

"This is a company and an industry that has a lot of bigger issues to deal with," said Argus Research analyst Kevin Tynan in New York. Ford, the world's third-largest automaker, is trying to revive its North American auto business, which lost money in three of the four quarters ended June 30.

Ford has no plans to resume using tires from Bridgestone's Americas unit, which includes the Firestone brand, Ford spokesman Paul Wood said. Bridgestone still supplies tires to Ford in Europe, Asia and North America.

Explorer sales peaked at 445,157 in 2000 and haven't been above 400,000 since 2002. Ford sold 339,333 Explorers last year, a 9.1 percent drop from 2003. Sales slid another 24 percent in the first nine months of this year.
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