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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Bridgestone/Firestone announced a recall Thursday of about 490,000 Steeltex tires linked to sport utility vehicle crashes that killed five people.
About 297,000 of the Steeltex LT265/75R16 Load Range D tires are on the road in the United States and 20,000 more internationally, the company said. The company said the others have probably have already been replaced by their owners.
"We haven't identified a specific problem with the tires," company spokesman Dan MacDonald said. "The data suggested that there's an issue, and the decision was made that instead of having a long drawn-out investigation to figure out if there is a problem, let's just step up and replace the tires."
The tiremaker said it learned two months ago that there were six crashes involving SUVs with Steeltex tires. It said it reported the information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as required, and announced the voluntary recall.
The safety administration first noticed a pattern of crashes and blowouts with Steeltex tires, federal officials said.
The tires were made for use on Ford Excursions from 2000 to 2002 and some early 2003 models.
The recall comes 31/2 years after the company began a recall of 17 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. More than 200 people were reported killed and hundreds more injured in rollover crashes after the tread on those tires separated. The company has spent an estimated $1.5 billion on that recall, including the settlement of dozens of lawsuits.
A current lawsuit accuses the tire manufacturer of using substandard materials to make a Steeltex model not covered by the recall. A hearing is scheduled next month to determine whether the suit should become a class-action case. The lawsuit seeks at least $1 billion in reimbursement for motorists and a recall of Steeltex R4S, R4SII and A/T tires.
About 41 million Steeltex tires of various models have been produced and are standard equipment on 71 types of vehicles, including pickup trucks, SUVs and recreational and emergency vehicles.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta praised the company's decision to recall the tires, saying it "shows that our system of safety standards is working."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)