Bridgestone is proud to carry on the blending of Japanese and American methods to provide quality products. Their philosophy is to serve society with superior quality and best today but still better tomorrow. In August 2000, there was a recall of Bridgestone/Firestone tires. The company recalled its 15 inch ATX and ATX II tires, plus 15 inch Wilderness AT tires. The recall involved more than six million tires. A federal investigation found at least 88 deaths and more than 300 accidents involving Bridgestone/Firestone tires that had shredded on the highway.
The majority of the accidents held the same situation of the driver maintaining a speed of 65 miles per hour, the tires shredded and the rubber peeled away from the rim. Most of the tire failures involved Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles. These accidents occurred after tire treads peeled off, causing tires to burst and malfunction then drivers lost control of their vehicles which resulted in crashes and turnovers. The tires involved are made up of many different materials layered around an inner shell.
The outermost layer is the tread, which covers two layers of steel cords. This tire recall was the second largest in history; it also raised a significant social responsibility and ethical issues for both Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone companies. Firestone’s last major tire recall nearly bankrupted the company in 1978, and led to its acquisition by Japanese-based Bridgestone. As with the recall announced, it involved abnormally high tread separation, resulting in accidents and deaths. Most of the tires involved in the recall were produced at Firestone’s Decatur, Illinois plant. Poor quality was named as one of the main causes of the failures, and many proposals were advanced to strengthen and update regulatory procedures.
I think that Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall is complicated and extensive problem. The companies involved needed to explain why they knew about the problems but continued the sale of those products. The Firestone Company has a social responsibility to ensure the safety of its consumers. The tires seem to have a defect that causes the tread to separate form the whole of the tire and roll the vehicle, this occurs especially in the Ford Explorer trucks. In some of the cases fatal accidents have occurred from the rollovers. These companies need to understand that immediate action needed to be taken place to resolve issues and prevent more from occurring.
This is the social responsibility of the Bridgestone/Firestone Company. This product recall affects the stakeholders; these consist of groups in Bridgestone/Firestones external environment. The groups are the employees, customers, social and political groups, competitors, trade and industry associations, governments, media, suppliers, communities, shareholders, and unions. These groups are significantly influenced by the organizations decisions and actions.
These groups can also influence the organization, and impact the decisions and actions of Bridgestone/Firestone managers. Bridgestone/Firestone organization should care about managing the stakeholders’ relationships because it can lead to other organizational outcomes such as improved predictability of environmental changes, more successful innovations and greater organizational flexibility to reduce impact of changes. The consumer demands from an ethical point of view, a safe and worthwhile product. The problem was serious, since it killed passengers of many vehicles involved.
This product of tires was also sold overseas. This impacted both Ford and Firestone because it put further consumer doubt into stakeholders. As early as the 1990’s the indications of defects in the Firestone tires have appeared. In August 2000, a Firestone spokesperson announced that the company was being sued 51 times. A spokesperson for Ford said that no judgments have been awarded against Ford.
Martin Inglis, the vice president of Ford North America said that Ford had tested the Firestone tires at its desert proving grounds in Arizona but had never witnessed such a failure. In 1999, Ford began receiving troubling reports from overseas markets. Ford received complaints of the suspected Firestone tires failing suddenly at high temperatures and under heavy loads. To the response of heavy complaints Ford replaced Firestone tires on more than 46,000 of its Explorer vehicles in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Thailand, and Malaysia. Mr.
Inglis stated, “The incidents overseas seemed incidental,” and that Ford didn’t understand what the issues were in the United States. Ford officials said they had been looking at reports of tire tread separation on Ford Explorers for some time. At the time of the recall one official stated, “It didn’t just happen in the last 10 days. ” The root causes of the tire tread separation have been determined. An analysis of evidence shows that the tires fail because they are poorly designed. The design problems are founded by poor quality control in the tire manufacturing process.
The design of the tire at the belt edges in the area around the wedge is insufficiently strong for the loads applied by the Explorer at the inflation pressures that are recommended by Ford. Firestone has never addressed the fact that the wedge gauge in thickness is unusually small and that the placement of the wedge length has a direct impact on durability of the tire at the belt edges. Also, reduced tires weight in the mid 1990’s resulted in the insufficient coverage over the belt edges between the tires tread block pockets. The material removed from the tires to reduce weight restricted the engineer’s ability to specify a durable belt edge design with a smooth changeover from the inflexible belt edges to the flexible upper sidewall. The tire may have performed somewhat when produced precisely to specification and operated lightly loaded and at the maximum inflation pressure.
The failure indicated that the design was unacceptable when the tire was exposed to the Explorer loads and the weight restriction that occurred during production. Ford and Firestone ignore the fact the weight reduction in the tire was directly related to the fact that the Explorer was so poorly designed that its wheels would not stay on the ground during anticipated turning maneuvers. The tires pocket shoulder design contributes to the generation of excessive internal heat at the belt edges. Radiographic analysis reveals there is significant movement of the tread rubber to fill the shoulder blocks of the tread pattern during curing of the tire. This unfilled shoulder block increased stress on the belt edges that result in crack formations at the belt edges.
Radiographic analysis also display that the wire alignment within the belts is not uniform. It also reveals bad splices and extreme belt placement discrepancy. The wire cord that was chosen for use in the tires is 1×5, old technology used to cut costs. It pronounces the problems created by the shoulder design because it allows oxygen to interact with the rubber that results in ruin of the skim compound. The skim compound has inadequate rubber to wire adhesion for the specific design characteristics of the tire and steel wire.
As the rubber looses adhesion from the steel belt cords cracks develop at the belt edges resulting in separation. Ford or Firestone has not addressed the role of the 1×5 wire cord characteristics as a contributing factor that enabled the spreading of cracks in the tire. The history of this problem with the 1×5 wire cord was revealed in the 1978 Firestone 500 recall. Design problems in the Explorer created a danger of rollover in turning maneuvers. Instead of modifying the design of the Explorer to fix the instability, Ford chose to recommend that the tires be operated at 26 pounds per square inch (psi) which was significantly below the maximum allowed inflation pressure. The lower tire pressure increased the rolling resistance of the tires but raised their operating temperature and decreasing belt adhesion.
The decreased tire inflation and increased rolling resistance also lowered the Explorers fuel efficiency. To correct the fuel economy problem, the tire design was changed to a lighter weight and less durable which was prone to the stresses created by use on the Explorer at Fords recommended inflation pressure. The combination of all of these factors causes unusually high stress and heat at the belt edge area of the tires. This result in small cracks that spread inward and ending in complete tread belt separations, particularly when the tires are used in hot climates in a loaded condition and at high speeds.
The tires recall problem has been resolved. The Bridgestone/Firestone initiated a voluntary safety campaign to replace approximately 297,000 steel radial AT tires. Consumers will receive free replacement tires. Since these tires were not performing up to the company’s expectations and in order to avoid any future problems they will replace the tires to enhance safety and to ensure customer satisfaction.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented the Tread Act that raised the bar for tire safety. The Tread Act was started in November of 2000, with direct linkage to the safety of Firestone tires and related matters. NHTSA could have detected the problems with the tires sooner if it had obtained reports about the tires problems in a timely manner. The Tread Act requires vehicle and equipment manufactures to report periodically to NHTSA on a wide variety of information that could show the existence of potential safety defect and to advise NHTSA of foreign safety recalls and campaigns.
The act increases civil penalties for violations of the vehicle safety law and provides criminal penalties for any misleading information about safety defects. The manufacturers are required to accelerate its program to fix a defect if there is a risk of serious injury or death. Manufacturers are also required to reimburse owners who acquire cost of a replacement before being notified by the manufacturer. It prohibits the sale of motor vehicle equipment if it is the subject of a defect recall. The Tread act also revised and updated the Federal motor vehicle safety standards for tires to improve labeling on tires and to require a system in new motor vehicles that warn the driver when a tire is under inflated.
Also new developments are being made to carry out rollover tests in vehicles and to disperse the results to the public. The long-term effect on the organization as a result of this problem in the tires is getting the publics respect and trust back. They also had to calm the consumer’s fears about safety. Ford’s investigators were concerned about the speed of Firestones warranty information.
Ford and Firestone agreed to work together with top executives of legal, purchasing, communication departments, and safety experts to find a solution for the tire incidents. They also began contacting tire makers worldwide to see if there would be enough tires to accommodate the recall. The public impression was that these two companies were working hand in hand, but they really had a lot of tension and disagreements. Firestones public relations campaign promises to make it right on consumer safety issues by upgrading manufacturing and quality control measures as long as it takes to get back the public relations trust. The true measurement of the company’s commitment to public safety is the continuing safety hazards to be addressed. The ethical value the Firestone Company faces is social responsibility.
They should go beyond their obligation required by law to pursue long-term goals that are good for society. Their social obligation is to meet its economic and legal responsibility by withdrawing that product from the market as soon as it is found to be unsafe. The company should do everything in its capacity to produce reasonably safe products. Several of the key players took quick action in response to the rising awareness of deaths and injuries associated with Firestone tires mounted on Ford Explorers. On November 2000, President Clinton signed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act. These bills require that stricter reporting procedures on tire manufacturing take place immediately.
However, rollover testing can be delayed for up to two years and the under-inflation warning systems can be delayed for up to three years. Under this new law, automotive industry officials will be held financially and criminally liable if they fail to notify the government about potential safety defects in a timely manner. Under this legislation, companies are required to rewrite their testing standards. Representative Billy Tauzin called the bill the “most important auto safety legislation in 30 years” (Ross, November 2000).
Within four months of the recall, and without admitting responsibility, Ford settled eight lawsuits related to accidents involving Firestone tires and Ford Explorers. One of the attorneys who handled several of these settled cases would not reveal settlement terms. The gag orders associated with tire-related lawsuits settled out of court may be an accepted business practice, but it would be more ethical to reveal potentially life-threatening defects. Ford and Firestone have both suffered in terms of public relations and sales. It is important remember that before the recall, the Ford Explorer was the top-selling SUV model in the US. Ford introduced a newly designed Explorer in 2002 and was anxious to put the Firestone tire incident behind them.
During that time, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser acknowledged that sales were down and that the launch of the 2002 model was slower than he anticipated. In response to a question about Ford’s reputation after the recall, Nasser stated, “I like to think that our customers and the marketplace will judge us on our behavior and the values we demonstrated. We looked after our customers. They were the focus of everything we did.
We were open. ” (Naughton, April 2001). Nasser continued to emphasize that there is no safety problem with the Explorer. It was interesting to find out that the 2002 Ford Explorer has a wider body and has included some rollover features. This recall by far was the biggest burden has fallen on Firestone. Bridgestone/Firestone had estimated that the cost of the U.
S. recall alone would be around $351 million. However, Commerzbank Securities estimates a much larger cost, possibly as much as $755 million. In an effort to win customers back, Firestone is launching a $30 million ad campaign titled “Making it Right” (Naughton, April 2001). Ford and Firestone have been working effectively as industrial partners for close to one hundred years, but the events surrounding the tire recall have damaged that relationship.
As Ford tries to distance itself from the tire recall controversy, Firestone continues to refer to Ford Explorer design and tire inflation recommendations. NHTSA’s reputation has been hurt by the media coverage and facts brought out in the congressional investigations. An editorial in The Bakersfield Californian suggested that NHTSA standards might be too weak or not enforced. NHTSA has been criticized for not investigating Firestone Tire and Ford Explorer accidents earlier. It appears that NHTSA failed to act in a timely manner.
In addition the agency’s data collection and reporting procedures added to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the potential defect. It is interesting to note that although the NHTSA investigation began in May 2000. The data then posted on the NHTSA Web site represents a creditable effort to keep the public informed. This official site of the NHTSA summarizes essential recall information, states the current reporting procedure, and offers updated statistics on claims received.
NHTSA says it will continue to monitor the situation to see if other tires needed to be recalled. It can be seen that the key executives in this event have taken many positive steps. Tires have been replaced, cars were redesigned, laws were passed, lawsuits are being settled, and most importantly, there has been more public awareness of safety issues. However there are unanswered questions. Have we determined the root cause of the tire failure? Have we recalled all of the dangerous tires? Have we fully investigated the relationship with SUV rollovers and tire failure? Will NHTSA do a better job in the future as it relates to consumer complaints? Will victims and their families have to resort to expensive lawsuits in order to reap justice? Will the different viewpoints of design engineers, manufacturers, and company executives are resolved before lives are lost? We need this company and all of its management to have good business ethics to do what is capable to keep the public safe.
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