Weekly News: June 25, 2001

June 25, 2001

REPLACEMENT TIRES DANGEROUS, TOO? The blame was pointed in all directions on Capitol Hill this past week, as Ford Motor Company, Bridgestone Firestone, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided heated testimony to Congressional investigators. Representative (and head of the House Commerce Committee) Billy Tauzin alluded that investigations had found the failure rates of some of the replacement tires Ford is using on Explorer SUVs to be even worse than the Firestone tires recalled. Ford CEO Jac Nasser prompted Tauzin for the data, but the committee was not yet ready to release it, calling for 30 more days for the NHTSA to examine data and draw its conclusions.

NHTSA OPENS EXPLORER INVESTIGATION Federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have agreed to open an investigation on the legitimacy of Firestone’s claim that there is a possible design flaw in the Ford Explorer. The agency was pressured by Congressional investigators earlier this week for not moving faster with its investigation into the cause of 203 fatalities and hundreds more injuries resulting from the failure of Firestone tires, mostly mounted on Ford Explorers. Firestone attests that the Explorer is extremely difficult to control following tire failure, and there might be a problem with the SUV's steering, while Ford maintains that the problem remains entirely a tire issue.

Ford, Firestone Face Congress

UAW MEMBERS SUPPORT FORD ON CAPITOL HILL About 3500 United Auto Workers members who work at Ford Motor Company facilities drove Ford Explorers to Washington, D.C., last week to rally their confidence in the safety of the SUV as Ford CEO Jac Nasser provided testimony to Congress. The workers, concerned for their jobs at plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, traveled to Washington to attest to the safety of their vehicles.

TOYOTA TO BUILD 300,000 HYBRIDS PER YEAR BY 2005 Toyota has unveiled a Japanese-market hybrid-powertrain minivan that will get more than 40 miles per gallon. The hybrid version of the Estima minivan model uses the same hybrid drive system as the Prius small sedan. Toyota plans to sell the minivan at just under $30,000 in Japan, and U.S. plans have not yet been announced. The Japanese automaker also said last week that it hopes to produce 300,000 hybrid vehicles per year in 2005, from 19,000 in 2000.

Toyota Penning Cheaper Hybrid (6/18/01)

AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS SHOW POOR RESPONSE TO STRESS A new university survey from the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at SUNY-Albany points to a direct correlation between aggressive-driving tendencies and the way in which people respond physiologically to stress. The study measured blood pressure and muscle tension for a group of aggressive drivers and a group of calmer drivers, and showed that the aggressive drivers had elevated blood pressure while the nonaggressive drivers did not. If anything, the investigators behind the study suggest relaxation and deep breathing as ways to reduce these violent responses behind the wheel.

DEATHS RISE FOR OLDER RIDERS Motorcycle deaths are rising again, and federal statistics show that older riders account for most of the increase in fatalities, reports the Chicago Tribune. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures show motorcyclist deaths to be up 27 percent in the past three years. Through the 1990s, the portion of deaths of motorcyclists 40 years old and up rose from 17 percent to nearly 40 percent. Most of these Baby Boomers are riding expensive touring bikes, which the NHTSA suspects might be less safe than lighter bikes, although the agency is uncertain as to exactly why the rates have risen.

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