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CNN Today

Congress Looking Into Firestone Tire Recall

Aired August 25, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the latest on the Firestone tire recall and the possibility of expanding that recall. Congressional aides are at Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, and they're going over Ford's records about Firestone tires. The national highway traffic safety committee says if widespread tire defects are discovered, more Firestone tires could be recalled. In the meantime, a group of lawyers is in Florida state court trying to turn their cases against Firestone into a state class- action lawsuit.

CNN's Susan Candiotti joins us by telephone from the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Fort Myers, Florida -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie.

Fort Myers, Florida, is one of many places where lawsuits have been filed against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford. Here in about an hour and a half, a Florida judge will hear arguments asking for a court order to officially notify all consumers who have any ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires of the recall. The lawyers in the case also demanding the recall be expanded to include all size and models of those tires in question, not just the 15-inch size.

Six-and-a-half million of the 15-inch models have been sold and in all, 14 million of those tires were manufactured. Sixty-two deaths and more than 100 injuries are being investigated in connection with those tires. Both Firestone and Ford, whose popular Ford Explorer and Ranger models use these tires, are against a recall expansion. A Ford official calling the suggestion irresponsible and an attempt to scare people.

Bridgestone/Firestone would not grant CNN an on-camera interview, instead choosing to respond to all requests by handing out this pre- produced tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LAMPE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRES., BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: We've taken a number of steps to make sure this recall process is completed just as quickly as possible, working day and night to increase our production, increase our imports. We're airlifting tires from one of our overseas locations. We have the other manufacturers that are increasing their production. We won't be satisfied until this recall is finished and completed. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Now if plaintiff lawyers here in Florida get their way, the court will also expand their lawsuit to cover an entire class of consumers: all owners of the Bridgestone/Firestone tires in question. It is not known, Natalie, whether the judge will make any decisions today.

ALLEN: And Susan, as we mentioned, congressional aides are now at Ford headquarters in Michigan going through their records. What's reaction to Congress getting involved in this?

CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly, the lawyers down here, and lawyers across the country who have filed lawsuits are watching those developments very carefully. And in addition, as you know, on September the sixth, the Senate Commerce Committee, led by Senator John McCain, will be holding hearings on the recall. Everyone is also watching to see whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, how they will wrap up their investigation to decide whether to expand the recall.

ALLEN: Susan Candiotti, in Fort Myers, thank you.

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