- A Timeline
• 1978, Firestone recall 14.5 million tyres due to tread separation.
• 1988, Bridgestone (Japan) takeover Firestone & save them from
financial collapse due to the 1978 recall.
• 1991, Bridgestone/Firestone AT, ATII, & Wilderness AT tyres fitted as
standard on Ford Explorer SUV.
• 1992, Ford start to receive complaints about Firestone tyres.
• Mar. 1999, Confidential memo from Firestone to Ford: everything’s fine!
• 1999, Ford start replacing Firestone tyres on models in 16 countries (not
USA) without telling NHTSA ‘federal’ regulators.
• 2000, The Houstan, Texas TV station, KHOU did a story on ‘tread
separation’ on Ford Explorer SUV. 46 deaths & > 300 incidents; more
complaint reported after.
• Aug. 2000, 6.5 million Firestone Tyres recalled in USA. Disagreement
about tire inflation pressure (Ford 26 psi; Firestone 30 psi) & report that
Firestone plant was “rife with quality-control”
- A Timeline continued
• Sept. 2000:
– Firestone (memo of Mar’99): “major reservations” about a plan to
replace tyres overseas.
– Ford: no obligation to report overseas recalls.
– Ford: no warranty data on tyre recalls.
– Firestone: damage claims (Nashville), warrenty adjustments (Ohio)
– Trend identified after-the-facts – by the New York Times
– Dept. of Transportation: no funding to track all data
– NHTSA: “our testing is clearly outdated”
• Bridgestone President: lack of quality control was management’s fault.
• Personal Injury Lawyers: identify trend (1996), but did not report to
NHTSA until 2000.
• 192 deaths & 500 injuries –attributed to Firestones tyres.
Firestone recalled tyres from Ford's Explorer
– 271 deaths & hundreds of injuries in high-speed
blowouts & rollover accidents.
– Ford’s cost: >$2 billion (2000-01).
Ford's Jacques Nasser, left, and Bridgestone's John Lampe: irreconcilable differences.
‘Companies try to pin blame on each
other, but others say both are at fault’
1991, Ford Explorer overturned in St. Petersburg after another car slid into a barrier in front of it.
What is Tread separation?
• Tread separation occurs when rubber tread
separates from steel belts inside the tyre.
• Occurs because difficult to adhere rubber to
• Tread separation becomes more likely at
higher speeds & warmer climates.
• Firestone: Nylon overlays; known alternative
remedy to prevent tread separation.
• Cost of nylon overlay; $1 per tyre.
• 10 million tyres recalled...you do the maths!
• Company spent $1.7 Billion in legal fees &
• Ford: review under-vehicle design: design
– chassis & engine mounting etc.
– Lower centre of gravity
National Highway Traffic Safety
• NHTSA Mission Statement: ‘To save lives, prevent injuries and reduce
traffic-related health care and economic costs.’
• NHTSA provides important information to the consumer, including
crash test ratings and vehicle safety information
• NHTSA report said; ‘Belt-leaving-belt’ tread separations reduce the
driver’s ability to control the vehicle. It is especially dangerous when
the separation occurs on the rear tyres.’
• Belt edge separation leads tread detachment. This tends to occur more
frequently at high speeds & warm climates.
• Design feature; ‘belt wedge’ is used to prevent belt-edge cracks.
– Belt wedge on Firestone tyres was found to be narrower gauge than peer tyres.
– Weak spots were found around tyre circumference due to the narrowing of the
wedge gauge at the shoulder pocket
• National Traffic & Motor Vehicle Safety Act; ‘Burden-of-Proof’ with
• NHTSA investigation concluded tyre defects came from named plants.
‘All Party’ Ethical Issues
• Individuals hid information (lawyers & executives)
• Data not stored (lack of funding)
• No obligation to report overseas actions
• Didn’t have a tool to detect trends easily
• Relationship of organizations prohibited a rapid
– Ford & Firestone had a long relationship (100
years), but did not communicate on issues
– Ford & Firestone did not report data to the
government if it might cost them
– Legal community hid information from government
for 4 years to protect their lawsuit
• No ‘information sharing’ culture
• All parties not collecting the correct data
• Problem Investigation not proactive
• If Ford/Firestone had practiced the courage of
ethical conviction they would have:
– Spent extra money on technical solution (vehicle
redesign & tyre ‘nylon overlays’.)
– Notified the proper authorities at the first indication
of product failure.
– Developed an in-house vehicle & tyre safety &
German-born American theoretical
“Everything that can be
counted does not
everything that counts
cannot necessarily be
An Ethical Decision
• Identify the problem.
• Apply a Code of Ethics.
• Determine the nature and dimensions of the
• Generate potential courses of action.
• Consider the potential consequences of all options,
choose a course of action.
• Evaluate the selected course of action.
• Implement the course of action.
“There is rarely one right answer to a complex ethical dilemma. However, if you
follow a systematic model, you can be assured that you will be able to give a
professional explanation for the course of action you chose.”
Firestone & Ford Case
AnalysisQuestions for Case analysis:
a. What are the ethical & social issues (systematic, corporate & social)
in this case?
b. Who are the stakeholders & what are their stakes? How do
organisational structure, culture and management style affect their
ethical performance and is the consumer the main priority?
c. Firestone and Ford. How do Ford & Firestone measure up in
fulfilling their various social responsibilities?
d. Who is at fault in the tyre separation controversy -
Bridgestone/Firestone? Ford Motor Company? Department of
Transportation? The NHTSA? or Lawyers?
Jones’ (1991) Moral Intensity
conducting accounting ethics
research1. Recognition of ethical issue or ethical sensitivity.
2. Making ethical judgment
3. Establishing ethical intent
4. Engaging in ethical behaviour
Jones (1991) identifies six variables/characteristics of the ethical issue (i.e. MI
factors) that will impact on the
ethical decision making process.
• Magnitude of consequences
• Social consensus
• Probability of effect
• Temporal immediacy
• Concentration of effect
Seven Signs of Ethical
Dr. Marianne Jennings (2006)Seven Factors that predict ethical crashes...
1. Pressure to maintain the numbers
2. Fear & Silence
3. Young ‘Uns & Bigger-than-Life CEO
4. Weak Board
6. Innovation like No Other
7. Goodness in Some Areas Atones for Evil