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CNN Today

Firestone Trying to Rebuild Trust With its Dealers, Customers

Aired November 2, 2000 - 2:41 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: Bridgestone/Firestone is about to make a major play to win back its customers. Company officials say they will extend what the company calls "a revolutionary warranty" to nearly all of its tire lines. The initiative comes as the tire maker also tries to rebuild trust among its independent dealers.

Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SCREECHING TIRES)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trying to get sagging sales back on track, Bridgestone/Firestone offered its dealers a thrill ride with professional race car drivers; the tire maker desperately trying to convince dealers to stay the course.

PHIL PASCI, BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE MARKETING DIRECTOR: Until they have confidence in us, that confidence will then translate to confidence for them with the consumers.

CANDIOTTI: The company gave a two-hour, closed-door pep talk to about 4,000 independent dealers in Las Vegas featuring new CEO John Lampe.

(on camera): The convention's an annual event. This year, it was supposed to be a grand celebration marking Firestone's 100th anniversary. Then the recall came along. Suddenly the dealers' conference took a critical turn.

(voice-over): Some dealers got what they were after.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they have a problem, Firestone has always taken care of their customers, and I think he's going about it the right way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They admitted that there's a problem and they corrected it, and they are correcting it.

CANDIOTTI: Firestone says it does not yet know what's causing the problem behind catastrophic tread separations under investigation for possible links to nearly 120 deaths.

Not every dealer was convinced by the presentation. This Ohio independent, left unsatisfied. He would only speak to CNN in silhouette, worried, he said, about possible retribution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Lampe's message was geared to the masses. It was full of platitudes, it was full of generalities, it was full of rah-rah, but it was very short on facts.

CANDIOTTI: Firestone told dealers they can start plugging a so- called "revolutionary three-year warranty," now extended to nearly all its brands. It also revealed plans to hire a celebrity endorser to rebuild consumer trust. A trade industry publisher says dealers have to be on board for any plan to work.

DAVID ZIELASKO, PUBLISHER, "TIRE BUSINESS": They sell the brand to the customer. If the dealer is confident of the product, then they can sell the customer.

CANDIOTTI: The hope is to do that in earnest once the recall's complete, expected by the end of the month.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Las Vegas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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