Firestone Tire and Rubber Company

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company

company_name = Bridgestone Firestone, LLC
company_type = Subsidiary of Bridgestone
foundation = 1900 (Akron, Ohio)
location = Nashville, Tennessee
United States
key_people = Mark A. Emkes, CEO
industry = Manufacturing
num_employees = 23,000
revenue = profit$2.09 billion USD (2004)
products = Tires/Tyres
homepage = []

The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was founded by Harvey Firestone in 1900 to supply pneumatic tires for wagons, buggies, and other forms of wheeled transportation common in the era. Firestone soon saw the huge potential for marketing tires for automobiles. The company was a pioneer in the mass production of tires. Firestone used this relationship to become the original equipment supplier of Ford Motor Company automobiles, and was also active in the replacement market.


Early/Mid 20th century

Firestone was originally based in Akron, Ohio, also the hometown of its archrival, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The company initiated operations in 1900 with 12 employees. [ History of Bridgestone/Firestone] , Bridgestone/Firestone Canada, 2002.] Together, Firestone and Goodyear were the largest suppliers of automotive tires in North America for over three-quarters of a century.In 1906 Firestone was chosen by Henry Ford for the Model T. [ Firestone 8000 Tire Order by Ford] Ford Chooses Firestone for Model T]

In 1919, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Canada was incorporated in Hamilton, Ontario and in 1922, the first Canadian-made tire rolled off the line on September 15. [ Canada manufactures firt Firestone tire] Firestone Canada Incorporated] During the '20s, Firestone produced the Oldfield tire, named for racing driver Barney Oldfield.

The company sponsored The Voice of Firestone on the radio beginning on December 1928. The program was transferred to television as an NBC simulcast on 5 September 1949. The last broadcast was in 1963. cite web
title =VOICE OF FIRESTONE, THE U.S. Music Program
url =

In 1928 the company built a factory in Brentford, England, for long an Art Deco landmark on a major route into the city. This closed in 1979.

In 1951, Firestone was given the defense contract for the MGM-5 Corporal missile. Firestone was given a total of US$6,888,796 for the first 200 Missiles. This missile was known as the "Embryo of the Army" and was a surface-to-surface guided missile which could deliver a high explosive warhead up to convert|75|nmi|km|0. It was later modified to be able to carry a nuclear payload for use in the event of Cold War hostilities in Eastern Europe. This missile was replaced in 1962 by the MGM-29 Sergeant system.cite web | url= | title=Corporal | publisher=Redstone Arsenal | accessdate=2007-03-22clear

In 1961, Firestone acquired the Dayton Tire division from the Dayco Corporation.

Restructuring and sale to Bridgestone

In late 1979, Firestone brought in John Nevin, the ex-head of Zenith Electronics as president to save the hemorrhaging company from total collapse. It was more than a billion dollars in debt at the time, and losing 250 million dollars a year. Nevin closed nine of the company's seventeen manufacturing plants, including six in one day. He moved the company from its ancestral home in Akron to Chicago. He spun off non-tire related businesses, including the Firestone Country Club. It was considered a deliberate plan to boost the stock price, and it paid off. In 1988 after discussions with Pirelli, Nevin negotiated the sale of the company to the Japanese company Bridgestone. Bridgestone Corporation Japan was able to buy the company for much less than it had been worth a decade and a half earlier. [cite web | url= | title=Old & Dangerous? | publisher=Tire Review Online | accessdate=2007-03-22] [cite web | url= | title=Tire industry loses two giants | publisher=Tire Business | date=2006-06-05 | accessdate=2007-03-22] [cite news | url=,9171,963555-2,00.html | title=The Companies | publisher=Time | author=Stephen Koepp | date=1997-02-16 | accessdate=2007-03-22] The combined Bridgestone / Firestone North American operations are now based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Firestone manufactures a roofing product under the brand name "Firestone Coverdeck", this product is widely used in North America on low sloping roofs. It is manufactured from 54% recycled product. Another product, "Firestone RubberGard" was chosen by the Denver International Airport for its roof. The roofing products division Firestone Building Products has over 20 manufacturing facilities in North America as well as global presence in over 6 countries.

Corporate Troubles

Firestone 500 tread separation problem

Radial tires were introduced to the US market by rivals Goodrich and Michelin in the late 1960's, and Firestone lacked one. The first radial tire developed and produced by Firestone was the ill-fated Firestone 500 Radial. Manufacturing of the new tire was performed on equipment designed to manufacture bias-ply tires.

During the 1970s, Firestone experienced major problems with the Firestone 500 radial. The Firestone 500 steel-belted radials began to show signs of separation of the tread at high speeds. While the cause was never proved, it is believed that the failure of bonding cements used by Firestone to hold the tread to the tire carcass, may have allowed water to penetrate the tire which in turn may have caused the internal steel wire to corrode. In March 1978, NHTSA announced publicly a formal investigation into defects of the Firestone 500. The NHTSA investigation found that the tread separation problem was most probably a design defect affecting all Firestone 500's. :In 1973, only two years after the 500's debut, Thomas A. Robertson, Firestone's director of development wrote an internal memo stating "We are making an inferior quality radial tire which will subject us to belt-edge separation at high mileage". [cite news | url=,9171,912478-1,00.html | title=Forewarnings of Fatal Flaws | publisher=Time | date=1979-06-25 | accessdate=2007-03-22] Firestone introduced strict quality control measures in an attempt to fix the inherent problems, however they were not successful in totally eliminating the basic faults. In 1977 a recall of 400,000 tires produced at the problematic Decatur plant was initiated. Firestone was considered to be less than cooperative with the NHTSA during the agency's investigation into the Firestone 500. Firestone blamed the problems on the consumer, stating underinflation and poor maintenance.

On October 20 1978, Firestone recalled over 7 million Firestone 500 tirescite news | url= | title=Timeline of key events in the history of Ford and Firestone | publisher=St. Petersburg Times | accessdate=2007-03-22, the largest tire recall to date. Congressional hearings into the 500 also took place in 1978. The tire was found to be defective and the cause of 34 deaths. Firestone was fined $500,000 USD, which at that time was the largest fine imposed on any American corporate entity. Multiple lawsuits were settled out of court and the constant negative publicity crippled the company's sales and share price.cite web | url= | title=Firestone’s Second Big Tire Blowout | publisher=Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania | date=2000-08-30 | accessdate=2007-03-22]

Harvard Business School and Wharton School taught classes and wrote papers on the issues of misjudgments and poor decision making by the management of Firestone. [cite web | url= | title=The Dynamics of Standing Still: Firestone Tire & Rubber and the Radial Revolution | publisher=Harvard Business School | author=Donald N. Sull | date=2000-11-27 | accessdate=2007-03-22] After years of bad publicity and millions paid out in compensation to victims, Firestone was losing vast amounts of money, and its name was severely damaged. [cite news | url= | title=Joint Committees Deliver Opening Statements at Congressional Hearing on Firestone Recall | publisher=CNN | date=2000-09-06 | accessdate=2007-03-22] [cite news | url= | title=Stricter Rules for Tire Safety Were Scrapped by Reagan | publisher=The New York Times | author=Keith Bradsher | date=2000-09-04 | accessdate=2007-03-22] [cite web | url= | title=Total Recall | publisher=RTNDA | author= Al Tompkins | accessdate=2007-03-22] [cite news | url= | title=A bumpy road for the radial-ply tire | publisher=USA Today | date=2000-12-26 | accessdate=2007-03-22]

Liberian rubber plant

In 1926, Firestone opened one of the world's biggest rubber plantations in Liberia, West Africa. A case against Firestone cite web
title =Firestone Claim| work| url =
] brought by the International Labor Rights Fund states, cquote|The Plantation workers allege, among other things, that they remain trapped by poverty and coercion on a frozen-in-time Plantation operated by Firestone in a manner identical to how the Plantation was operated when it was first opened by Firestone in 1926"

Firestone's management rejects these allegations citing that the corporation has provided employment and pensions to thousands of Liberians as well as health care. The company also provides education and training opportunities to employees and their children. cite web
title =Firestone Briefing| work| url =

In May 2006, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) released a report detailing the state of human rights on Liberia's rubber plantations. According to the report, Firestone managers in Liberia admitted that the company does not effectively monitor its own policy prohibiting child labor. UNMIL found that several factors contribute to the occurrence of child labor on Firestone plantations: pressure to meet company quotas, incentive to support the family financially, and lack of access to basic education. The report also noted that workers' housing provided by Firestone has not been renovated since the houses were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. cite web
title =Human Rights in Liberia's Rubber Plantations: Tapping into the Future
publisher=United Nations Mission in Liberia
url =
pages=pp. 45-46

Dan Adomitis, President of Firestone Natural Rubber Company, made the following statement on CNN in reference to the production quotas and child labor: cquote|OKE: The individual workload is reasonable, says Dan Adomitis, president of Firestone Natural Rubber.ADOMITIS: Well, I think the work is fairly balanced, we - each tapper will tap about 650 trees a day, where they spend perhaps a couple of minutes at each tree.
OKE: But listen again to what Adomitis told CNN.
ADOMITIS: Each tapper will tap about 650 trees a day where they spent perhaps a couple of minutes at each tree.
OKE: Six hundred and fifty trees a day, at two minutes per tree, it's 1,300 minutes, or more than 21 hours of work a day. It's that kind of workload that has caught the attention of human rights groups. cite web
title =Is Firestone Exploiting Liberian Workers?
url =

In response to the accusations of child labor and poor housing in the UN report, Dan Adomitis; President of Firestone Natural Rubber Company Liberia; stated:

Ford Explorer rollover problem

In 1996, several state agencies in Arizona began having major problems with Firestone tires on Explorers. According to news reports, various agencies demanded new tires, and Firestone conducted an investigation of the complaints, tested the tires and asserted that the tires had been abused or under-inflated.

On September 6 2000, in a statement before the US Senate Appropriations Transportation subcommittee the president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, Joan Claybrook, stated:

The report went on to indicate that Ford also had a major role in the problems stating that The Ford Motor Company had instructed Firestone to add a nylon ply to the tires it manufactured in Venezuela for additional strength and that Ford had made suspension changes to the Explorer model available in Venezuela. Ford did not specify adding the nylon ply for U.S.-made Firestone tires nor did it change the Explorer suspension on US models at this time.

An abnormally high failure rate in Firestone's Wilderness AT, Firestone ATX, and ATX II tires resulted in multiple lawsuits, as well as an eventual mandatory recall. In 2001 Bridgestone/Firestone severed its ties to Ford citing a lack of trust. The lack of trust came about concerns that Ford had not heeded warnings by Bridgestone/Firestone relating to the design of the Ford Explorer. cite journal
first =Chris
last =Isidore
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2001
month =May 21
title =Firestone severs ties to Ford
journal =CNN
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =
] In 2006, Firestone announced renewed efforts to recall tires of the same model recalled in 2000 after the tires were linked to recent deaths and injuries. Although Firestone estimates 97% of the tires were replaced in the 2000 recall concern existed over spare tires that many owners did not think to replace during the 2000 recall. cite web
title =Firestone tires recall linked to recent deaths
work =CNN
url =
] Part of this effort was a new advertising campaign in an attempt to reach the 5% of customers that still had not acted on its voluntary recall program. The recall/replacement program was supported by a comprehensive advertising and consumer outreach campaign and over 6.3 million tires were replaced of the total 6.5 million affected. This still leave approx 200,000 tires out there somewhere. While the company believes that most of those tires unaccounted for have probably been scrapped long ago it is still trying to locate as many as possible.cite web | url= | title=Firestone Still Looking For recall Tires | publisher=Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC | date=2006-07-21 | accessdate=2007-03-22

:The vice president of Quality Assurance for Bridgestone Firestone North America Tire, LLC; Mike Kane, stated "Even though there are only a small percentage of these tires believed to be still in use, we are continuing to put safety first and are implementing this campaign to try and reach a group of consumers whose tires have not been recovered".

TV Advertisement jingle

"Where the Rubber Meets the Road"cite web | url= | title=Firestone Jingle | publisher=Firestone | format=QuickTime | accessdate=2007-03-22 is an advertisement jingle that was frequently used in the 1960s and 1970s, especially on televised sporting events.

:Wherever wheels are rolling,:No matter what the load,:The name that's known is "Firestone":Where the rubber meets the road

ee also

*Formula One tyres
*Firestone-Apsley Rubber Company
*IndyCar Series


External links

*cite web
title =Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Homepage
work =
url =

* [ Century of Progress] from the Summit Memory Project

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