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Scandal! How the Ford-Firestone disaster exploded

1 month ago

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Gavin Green | Journalist


20 March 2024

The biggest automotive scandal at the dawn of the 21st century saw two American motoring dynasties go to war, cost billions and resulted in the sacking of the car boss once feted as the industry’s brightest star. More significantly, over 200 people died when their Ford Explorer SUVs shod with Firestone tyres rolled over.

It scarred the reputation of Firestone and the then new Explorer. It even dented consumer enthusiasm for new-fangled (but often roly-poly) SUVs, albeit temporarily. It was also a catalyst for a change of corporate direction at Ford, resulting in the sale of its three British brand jewels: Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

To understand this tale of negligence, shoddy engineering, manifold lawsuits and families at war, we need to go back more than 100 years. Harvey Firestone, the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and Henry Ford were personal friends. They even went camping together, with fellow industrialist friend Thomas Edison.

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