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Report: Ford Explorer has higher rate of accidents
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Ford Explorer has a higher rate of tire-related accidents than other sport utility vehicles, even when fitted with Goodyear tires and not the Firestone tires that have been linked to 101 deaths nationwide, The Washington Post reported on Monday, citing an analysis of national and Florida crash statistics.
The findings suggested that something about the Explorer may be contributing to those accidents, despite repeated statements by Ford Motor Co. executives to the contrary, the Post said, quoting automotive analysts.
Firestone, owned by Japan's Bridgestone Corp., announced the recall of 6.5 million tires on August 9. Most of the 15-inch ATX and Wilderness tires were fitted to light trucks and sport utility vehicles made by Ford.
Since the recall, Ford officials have insisted that the deadly accidents linked to the tires -- most of them involving Ford Explorers -- are a Firestone tire problem.
Explorers have higher centers of gravity
But safety advocates and plaintiff attorneys have said Ford shares blame for the tire problem because it recommended the tires be inflated to 26 pounds per square inch, lower than Firestone's recommendation, to make the Explorer less prone to roll over. Ford last month increased its inflation recommendation to 30 psi to match that of Firestone.
Ford Chief Executive Jacques Nasser conceded in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday that SUVs, which have higher centers of gravity than cars, were more susceptible to rollover accidents when tires failed.
"If you do have a bad tire, then a sports utility vehicle is more prone to an accident, then, say, a low-slung sedan," he told CBS.
The Post said its analysis -- which covered fatal accidents nationally from 1997 to 1999 and a larger Florida database of fatal and nonfatal crashes for the same period -- showed that Explorers equipped with Goodyears had a higher rate of tire-related accidents than other SUVs in the national fatal accident records, although it said the 2,000 accidents involved were so few that the difference could be a statistical fluke.
It said an analysis of 25,000 fatal and nonfatal SUV accidents with 83 blown tires in Florida showed that tire blowouts in Goodyear-equipped Explorers contributed to crashes at rates more than double those of other SUVs.
Explorers with Firestone tires crashed four times as often as other SUVs after tire failures, the Post said.
Ford and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. officials criticized the Post's analysis, saying the number of accidents examined was too small to be meaningful, that the databases do not always accurately identify vehicles, and that Explorers should not be compared with the entire universe of SUVs, which can range from two-seaters to behemoths.
Explorers were no more likely than other SUVs to have brake problems, worn tires or most other equipment failures that contributed to an accident in Florida, the paper said.
Vehicles 'may have stability problems'
But it said no other make or model of SUV had a pattern of equipment failure related as strongly to accidents as the Explorer's tire blowouts. Using two different ways of measuring accident rates, the Explorer was either three or four times as likely as other SUVs to have a tire blowout contribute to an accident, the Post said.
Explorer's higher fatality rate in blowout accidents may be related to rollovers. In 5,870 single-vehicle accidents in Florida, the Explorer was 13 percent more likely to roll than other compact SUVs, against which Ford likes to compare the Explorer's rollover record, the Post said.
The Explorer was 53 percent more likely than other compact SUVs to roll over when an equipment failure such as faulty brakes, bald tires or blowouts caused an accident, it added.
James Fell, who retired last year as chief of research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told the Post the findings were a "first indicator that (Ford Explorers) may have a stability problem."
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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