Before Toyota, There Was Ford-Firestone

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.


by Myron Levin


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Nearly a decade before Toyota and sudden acceleration, there was Ford-Firestone, a scandal of similar proportions.

By late 2001, rollovers of Ford Explorers triggered by blowouts of Firestone tires had claimed 271 lives in the U.S. and dozens more overseas. Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone pointed fingers at each other. Experts said bad tires on a top heavy SUV made a deadly combination.

The official verdict blamed the tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration denied a request from Bridgestone/Firestone for a defect investigation of the Explorer, saying crash data did not distinguish it from other SUVs. In August 2000, the companies began replacing millions of tires on Explorers and their twins — Mercury Mountaineers and Mazda Navajos. The furor subsided, and politicians, regulators and the news media moved on.