On this day in 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million tires after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration linked at least 46 deaths and hundreds of accidents to issues with the tires' treads.
In May of that year, the NHTSA had requested information from both Ford and Firestone concerning the high number of tire failure on the popular SUV, the Ford Explorer. Investigations by Ford found that the tread of the 15-inch ATX and ATX II models and Wilderness AT tires would peel off, explaining the extreme failure rates. When the tires failed, drivers would almost instantly lose control of the car and roll over, resulting in a number of fatalities.
Because of the link between the tire failure and hot weather, the recall started in the Southwest region of the U.S. Over the course of the next year when the recall would finally be complete, Bridgestone/Firestone faced 50 lawsuits as well as an investigation on if both the company and Ford were aware of the issue beforehand. Bridgestone/Firestone, along with a few others, believed the problem was not only a result of the tires, but of the design of the Explorer which made it more likely to tip over.
Ford responded by saying it would replace all Wilderness AT tires at its own expense, even ones not included in the recall, totalling to 13 million tires. Firestone then ended its nearly 100-year relationship with Ford. The company had become the top tire manufacturer in America after it put the first inflatable tires on Ford's iconic Model T in 1908, selling thousands of tires to Ford and forging a strong relationship between both the founders — Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford — as well as the companies for decades up to this controversy.