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Report: Bridgestone, Ford to Make Peace

Automotive: A Japanese newspaper says the companies torn apart by tire debacle agree to restore relations.

January 07, 2002|From Bloomberg News

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. declined to comment on Japanese news reports that the second-largest auto maker tentatively agreed to settle disputes and restore normal business relations with tire maker Bridgestone Corp.

"We have been talking, we have nothing to announce," said Ford spokesman Ken Zino. Bridgestone spokeswoman Setsuko Ozaki said Asia's biggest tire maker is ready to hold more talks with Ford, after their two meetings last year in the U.S.

During the upcoming talks, the companies also are expected to discuss whether Japan-based Bridgestone will reimburse Ford for money spent recalling tires made by Bridgestone's U.S. unit, Bridgestone/Firestone Americas Holding Inc., the Yomiuri newspaper said, citing unnamed people.

Ford and Bridgestone have argued over blame for an estimated 271 U.S. highway deaths involving Firestone tires, most of them on Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles.

Former Ford Chief Executive Jacques Nasser last year ordered all Firestone tires replaced on Ford vehicles, costing the auto maker $2.1 billion and resulting in a second-quarter loss.

When Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. ousted Nasser in late October, he signaled that he wanted improved relations with Bridgestone. "It would be in our mutual interest to work something out," Ford Group Vice President James Padilla said Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, without commenting directly on the Yomiuri report.

Ford Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele met with Bridgestone Chief Executive Shigeo Watanabe in Honolulu in November, the two have said. The meeting was followed by another last month between Scheele and John Lampe, chief executive of Bridgestone/Firestone, in Detroit.

"The meetings were fruitful," said Christine Karbowiak, a Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman. She declined to comment further.

Ford shares ended trading Friday 21 cents higher at $16.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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