Faced with reports of accidents and injuries in Japan involving steelbelted radial tires, the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., yesterday informed the Japanese Government that it would include American-made 500's radials sold in Japan in its recently announced tire recall.
The Japanese Transportation Ministry said yesterday that some 24,000 tires will be called back to the U.S. and replaced free of charge, beginning in February.
The tires were either shipped on American cars sent to Japan or sold through independent tire dealers as replacement tires.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that the 500 has a "safety-related defect" that led to massive tire failures and at least 40 deaths and 65 injuries over the past few years. In Japan, eight accidents injuring four people were reported last year involving the Firestone tires.
Firestone has denied that it has sold the controversial 500 steel belted radials overseas, "except in limited volume."
But a Washington Post investigation found that hundreds and possibly thousands of the tires were sold in such places as Panama and Argentina.
After the Japanese announcement yesterday, Firestone said that any of its 500 tires made in the U.S. made vehicles now in foreign countries will be included in the recall - subject to the dates and other conditions agreed to by both Firestone and the government last month.
Firestone does make 500-brand tires in overseas plants in such countries as Sweden and Argentina, but they are made with a different internal construction than their American counterparts, and apparently are not subject to to the same problems.