In 1906, Henry Ford purchased 8,000 tires from Harvey Firestone, who began producing tires at a small factory in Akron, Ohio in 1900. The sale initiated a long growing relationship between two eventual leaders in their respective industries. In a matter of just a few short months in 2000, a very robust business-to-business relationship, 100 years in the making, was destroyed by a lack of communication, poor quality management, and the disregard of consumer concern. U.S. regulators have linked the failure of Firestone tires and resulting rollover accidents from 1998 to 2000 (mostly involving the popular Ford Explorer SUV) to 271 deaths and more than 800 injuries in the United States. Two-and-a-half years later Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone, Inc. (Firestone's parent company) is still arguing the question of who is to blame for the tragedy.
Were Firestone's tires defective? Was Ford recommending a tire application that was unsafe for consumers, and their families? Was tread separation a common problem for all tire manufacturers, or was it just Firestone's tires that had the problem? Did the government fulfill their responsibility to protect the consumer? Many questions were being thrown around, and more still will probably be asked before the repercussions of the tragedy finally dissipate.
Firestone accepted full responsibility for the defective tires both publicly, and during Senate hearings. It was discovered that Firestone was aware of the possibility of tread separation problems dating back to 1994. Firestone even went so far as to increase tire production in an .
effort to dilute tire failure rates. The quality issues Firestone experienced during a two-year period, between 1994 and 1996 has been attributed to an employee strike at their plant in Decatur, IL. It is believed that replacement workers hired during the strike were unskilled which resulted in poor quality.