Firestone tire flap tops list of decade’s worst PR disasters

posted on:
December 29, 2009

author:
KURT NILAND

The Firestone tire flap of 2000 topped The Business Insider’s list of the 15 Biggest Public Relations Disasters of the Decade. The blog-style webzine likely gave Bridgestone, the manufacturer of Firestone tires, top spot on the list because its handling of the situation ultimately lead to hundreds of injuries and deaths.

Bridgestone received the first complaints about Firestone tires starting in 1998. Drivers reported that the treads were separating from the tires or had come off of the tires completely while their vehicles were in motion. Firestone tread separation caused several hundred traffic accidents, many of which resulted in serious injury and death.

Rather than respond to the complaints appropriately, Firestone Rubber and Tire and its parent company chose to deny that a problem with millions of their ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires existed.

After receiving nearly 200 reports involving numerous injuries and 21 deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally stepped in. The agency announced on August 2, 2000 that it would launch a thorough investigation. At the same time, Ford Motor Co. also announced it would review the safety of the tires, which were standard issue on some of its vehicles, including the Ford Explorer.

With the spotlight turned on it, Bridgestone conceded that its tires were defective. On August 9, it announced the second largest recall in history involving 6.5 million tires. According to the NHTSA, the defective tires caused traffic accidents that killed 200 people and injured 700 – deaths and injuries that could have been prevented had Bridgestone shown more concern for its customers and acted swiftly. 

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