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CNN Today

Congressional Hearings With Ford, Firestone, NHTSA May Result in New Legislation

Aired September 12, 2000 - 2:10 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: To Capitol Hill now, where lawmakers are trying to figure out who knew what when about those faulty Bridgestone/Firestone tires.

Testifying today: executives with both the tire manufacturer and Ford Motor Company, which fitted a majority of those tires to its SUVs.

And watching it all is our own Carl Rochelle.

What have they been saying so far, Carl?

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, we're all wrapped up with that hearing, it finished up just a few minutes ago here in Washington.

We heard from both the tire maker, Firestone, and Ford, the automobile maker.

We also heard from members of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Rodney Slater, the secretary of transportation, and they asked for some strong new laws to give them some teeth to enable them to dig out more information from situations such as this.

They want more money. They transferred some money out of the DOT budget into handling this investigation, but they also asked for more money and asked for some strong new legislation.

The interesting thing about this was the finger-pointing from both Firestone and Ford. First Ford.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACQUES NASSER, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Last week I listened in disbelief as senior Firestone executives not only acknowledged that Firestone had analyzed its claims data, but also identified significant pattern of tread separations as early as 1998.

Yet, Firestone said nothing to anyone, including the Ford Motor Company.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROCHELLE: Now, last week when Ford pointed a finger at Firestone, Firestone hadn't said a great deal about it and didn't pass much back.

But today, Firestone was saying, well, maybe we're not in this by ourselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LAMPE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: We believe that in the interest of public safety, one of the areas of focus for future evaluations by NHTSA, by us, by the automobile industry, should be the interaction between the tire and the vehicle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROCHELLE: Subtle, but nonetheless pointing the finger at Ford, saying that perhaps they share the problems with this and that they should look into it together.

That hearing is wrapped up. Not sure whether there will be any more hearings or not, but there will certainly be some legislation, because a number of members of Congress have said that they need to do something to make sure a situation like this doesn't happen again in the future -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And Carl, what's the worst that could come out of all of this for Ford and Firestone?

ROCHELLE: Well, I think, probably, they have seen the worst of it, in public terms, right now.

Ford clearly had some problems with vehicles, and it appears that Ford may have not been completely as candid -- that's something that the lawmakers are trying to follow out.

I think Firestone has suffered a lot of public problems with this because of the image of their tires failing, and that could have some long-ranging effects.

But, off of the Hill, it is not likely that they will pass any legislation directly affecting them. What they'll do is pass legislation that will protect them against any problems in the future, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Carl Rochelle watching that story in Washington.

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