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”Don‘t even say it,“ I snapped, and hung up.
One multinational down, one to go. I e-mailed Jacques Nasser, president and CEO of the Ford Motor Co. (Nasser, if you remember, was the guy with the Australian accent who spoke in those post-recall Ford commercials.) It was more of a rant than a letter. ”How can I convince my son that his mother is providing for his safety,“ I wrote, ”given all the information about Wilderness AT tire failures all over the world?“
I heard from the Ford folks right away. Could I fly in to meet with them, face to face, they wanted to know. ”Um, a phone meeting will be fine,“ I assured them. Nasser himself called a few mornings later. He was very smart, very savvy, and had read my letter carefully enough that he could quote pieces of it back to me. ”I think it’s good that your son is checking the air pressure,“ he said. ”That thing about him calling your Explorer the ‘rollover machine,’ that really got to me.“ Nasser described in detail how he‘d personally considered every nuance of the recall problem. ”Based on what I’ve seen, we know that the Decatur tires were a bad batch. And the Venezuelan tires are very bad. So we‘re trying to get those tires off the road as fast as we can.“ The rest of the Wilderness AT tires were world-class, Nasser maintained. ”But, as you say, who knows? The bottom line is, if you’re uncomfortable with your tires . . .“
”I‘m uncomfortable with them,“ I said.
”Then we’ll replace them. I want your son to feel safe again. Look,“ he added, ”I have four kids. Between them, they‘ve got three Explorers. And all of their tires are non-recall Wilderness ATs.“
Nasser knew I was a journalist. And I knew I was being handled. Nonetheless, it was hard not to like him. The Firestone people also knew they were talking to a reporter, yet they blew me off without so much as a blink -- not once, but three times. Furthermore, by doing the right thing, albeit belatedly, Nasser understood he was throwing the door open to other Explorer owners who wanted their non-recall ATs replaced. Still, acting righteously by your customer is, in the long run, smart business. Maybe Jacques Nasser understands that too.
”We’re going to get you and your son some new tires,“ Nasser repeated.
After I hung up, I hurried to Will‘s bedroom to tell him the news. ”We did it,“ I said.
Will nodded sagely. ”Damn straight.“
Ford was true to its word. Two days after my conversation with Nasser, his assistant called to find out which dealership was nearest our house. By the end of the week, I was driving around on four brand-new Michelins, with a fifth Michelin tucked in the undercarriage as a spare. So do Will and I feel safer now that the Wilderness ATs are finally out of our lives? Yep, as a matter of fact, we do. And do we like Ford better because of it? Damn straight.
POSTSCRIPT: This past Monday, January 8, Ford along with BridgestoneFirestone reached a settlement on the first Wilderness AT lawsuit set to go to trial since the recall began. A 44-year-old Texas woman named Donna Bailey sued after being paralyzed from the neck down during the March 10 crash of a friend’s Ford Explorer. It seems the vehicle rolled when the tread separated from one of its non-recall Wilderness AT tires. A lawyer for Bailey described the agreed-upon amount to be ”far in excess of anything I‘ve ever heard of in any automotive liability settlement.“ At the same time, BridgestoneFirestone chairman John Lampe continued to maintain that the Wilderness AT failures were due solely to two factors: problems at the Decatur plant and the design of the Ford Explorer. ”Our recall initiated in August was more than adequate to protect the public,“ Lampe stated in a recent press release. Uh-huh. Well, I think it’d be productive for each of us AT owners -- present and former -- to drop Mr. Lampe a cheery little New Year‘s note. Be sure to mention the word boycott.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For those frustrated non-recall Wilderness AT tire owners who have thus far been unable to get their tires replaced, here‘s what I suggest:
1. First of all, check to see if you have these tires: Wilderness AT P23 575R15 or P25570R16.
2. If your tires are among the designs listed, but are made at a different factory than those previously eligible for replacement, go to your dealer armed with this article. Tell your service manager that Ford corporate appears to be replacing some non-recall ATs upon request and ask the service manager to do it for you. If the dealer is not responsive, ask him or her to contact Ford corporate headquarters to check out the policy. Say you are positive the Ford Motor Co. wants to keep its customers happy.
E-mail me the results of your experience at email@example.com.
This story was first published by MSNBC Interactive News, L.L.C.