Ford SUVs line up for tires

230 with Firestones must wait to switch at one dealership

`It's a panic situation'

May 25, 2001|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

For the second time in as many years, owners of Ford sport utility vehicles are lining up at auto dealerships around the state to have their Firestone tires replaced.

Bob Bell Ford reported yesterday that the Glen Burnie dealership had 230 customers on a waiting list for new tires.

"The calls keep coming," said Bob Bell, the dealership's chairman. "We received 35 calls within a 2 1/2 -hour period.

"It's a panic situation. People hear on the news that Ford is recalling 13 million Firestone tires, and they say, `Oh God, do I have them on my vehicle?'"

The situation varies from dealer to dealer.

Jackie Heck, the parts and service director at Sherwood Ford in Berlin, said she already has made arrangements for 175 customers to have their tires exchanged.

"That's nearly 900 tires," she said, pointing out that the spare tire also needs to be replaced.

But at Towson Ford, service manager Paul Speight said the dealership had received only five or 10 calls by yesterday afternoon.

He said a few of those calls were about vehicles not affected by the recall.

Ford is saying that its recall is limited to the 15-, 16- and 17-inch Firestone Wilderness AT tires installed as original equipment or as replacements on its vehicles.

The company said the tires were installed on two sport utility vehicles - the Explorer and the Expedition. Two Ford pickups, the Ranger and the F150, also featured Firestone tires.

Ford says that more than 80 percent of the tires being recalled are on Explorers.

Anticipating a flurry of activity in the service department, at Sherwood Ford, Heck said the dealership bought another tire changer and a wheel-balancing machine.

She said the dealership already has stocked about 500 tires, from Goodyear, Michelin and BF Goodrich.

Replacements awaited

Several Ford dealers in the state reported that they don't expect to receive their first shipment of replacement tires for another week.

Nobody could explain why some dealers were getting a lot more calls from concerned motorists than others.

"So far we have only gotten 26 calls," said John Miller of Miller Brothers Ford in Ellicott City. "That is not what we expected. I expect the volume to pick up in the next few days.

Miller said the dealership is waiting for a list from Ford that logs customers with vehicles needing replacement tires. "When we get our list, we will contact everybody who has not already contacted us," he said.

"We are not fielding a lot of calls," said Bill Amoss, service and parts director at Bob Davidson Ford in Baynesville. "It's not a big situation for us."

As a result of the quickness of the recall, Amoss said, there are not enough tires in the supply chain to get them to dealers.

150 calls at Plaza Ford

At Plaza Ford in Bel Air, Pat Bartholow, service manager, said he has had calls from about 150 customers.

"We're telling them we won't have tires until the first of June," he said.

Ford said it will reimburse customers up to $110 for 15-inch tires bought at an authorized tire dealer.

It will pay up to $130 for 16- and 17-inch tires. The company said customers should take the replaced tires along with their receipt to any Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealer.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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