2001 Ford Explorer XLSEnlarge Photo
The decade began with Ford's most severe challenge since the Pinto. A series of incidents involving the Ford Explorer and Firestone tires were related to improperly inflated tires, which overheated. That led to tread separation--and hundreds of deaths and injuries on America's highways. In addition to the 270 fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) logged thousands of injuries and property claims made to automobile manufacturers and tire companies. As a result, the Firestone name retreated under its Bridgestone corporate umbrella for years--but Ford's losses were just as steep. The recall hurt badly--but the change in consumer tastes that followed felt more permanent, and possibly arose as a result of the Firestone debacle. Sales of the Explorer SUV have plummeted from more than 400,000 annually to about 35,000 this year, with a new carlike Explorer in development for the 2011 model year.