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Bridgestone/Firestone Recall Hearings: Top Executives Face Tough, Skeptical Questioning

Aired September 7, 2000 - 1:23 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Congressional hearings on the tire recall ran late into the night. They focused on charges that Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford may have covered up safety problems involving Firestone tires on Ford Explorer SUVs.

CNN's Kelli Arena reports that top executives faced tough, skeptical questioning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ford's CEO, Jacques Nasser, offered a spirited defense of his company's actions regarding Firestone tires.

JACQUES NASSER, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORD: Ford did not know that there was a defect with the recalled tire until we virtually pried the data from Firestone's hands, and analyzed it ourselves. It was only then, a few days before the recall was announced that Ford engineers discovered the conclusive evidence that the tires were defective. We then demanded, insisted that Firestone pull the tires from the road.

ARENA: Nasser also promised to alert all global authorities to any future problems, an action Ford did not take when it replaced Firestone tires overseas last year.

Bridgestone/Firestone's defense was not as aggressive, and translation difficulties during the hearing did not help matters.

MASATOSHI ONO, BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE CEO: I came before you to apologize you and -- especially to the American people.

ARENA: Others Firestone officials appearing with the CEO insisted the company's data has so far failed to reveal a design or manufacturing defect.

Also on the defensive: the new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sue Bailey tried to explain why her agency never acted on a memo from State Farm Insurance warning of an unusual number of claims involving Firestone tires.

(on camera): But even after all the hours of testimony, one simple question remains: What exactly went wrong?

Kelli Arena, CNN Financial News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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