In the early stages of the Bridgestone/Firestone investigation Ford has continually denied knowing anything about the tire defect, however, a 1999 memo seems to prove otherwise. The memo from Ford surfaced, suggesting Bridgestone/Firestone tried to keep defective tire information in Saudi Arabia from U.S. the government. The document clearly shows Ford’s involvement with Bridgestone/Firestone and their knowledge of the tire problem in Saudi Arabia. It appears the motivation factor for Ford was to replace the defective tires and not totally involve Bridgestone/Firestone. The results obviously were to avoid triggering action by the Department of Transportation here in the U.S. Therefore, appearing that both companies new about the defective tires for two years before taking action.
In South America other reports of defective tires had surfaced causing 46 deaths in Venezuela two years earlier, but when Bridgestone/Firestone first decided to officially recall the tires it did not include those manufactured in the Bridgestone/Firestone Venezuela plant. Bridgestone/Firestone refused to recall the tires insisting they were not defective. The business practices of Bridgestone/Firestone are in question from a moral, ethical and legal position.
There is evidence of deceptive a practice by the tire maker in trying to cover up the fact that the company had produced defective tires. They knowingly sold those tires here in the U.S and in other countries, but executives still chose to ignore and/or cover-up crucial data. In the public opinion, Bridgestone/Firestone knew of the problem but failed to protect consumers. The real challenge now faced by Bridgestone/Firestone is how do they earn the trust back and recover from this public relations and financial nightmare. Consumers are asking why should you be trusted when you have not been honest with us from day one of knowing about the defects. Many consumers believe Bridgestone/Firestone withheld crucial test data from consumers and government agencies putting consumer’s lives at risk.
Ultimately the cost is expected to be high for Bridgestone/Firestone in the form of a tremendous loss to their reputation, financial status, and relationship to Ford and potential customers. The company’s reputation is damaged and perhaps beyond repair and in the marketing business, that can be the kiss of death. Consumers see a company that has been deceptive and outright lied. Bridgestone/Firestone might not have had a legal obligation to report findings to the U.S. government discovered from the Saudi Arabia and Venezuela incidents but they had at least a moral obligation to protect unsuspecting consumers from injuries or worse; death.
Bridgestone/Firestone has to manufacture and pay to replace 6.5 million tires here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. The relationship between Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford are strained to say the least, and should Ford decide not to renew their business relationship the company will be closer to financial ruin. Enormous lawsuits proposed in civil and now criminal court will undoubtedly affect the financial stability of the company. All of these financial problems will have some indirect or direct effects on the stock prices, which has hit a 5-year low. It stands to reason that had Bridgestone/Firestone done the right thing and revealed the problem years ago, they may have avoided the nightmare they are facing today.