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SUV Replacement Tires Tough To Find

Sep 12, 2002 | USA Today Owners of Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport-utility vehicles trying to replace tires that were recalled last month because of a risk of tread separation are running into delays.

Tiremaker Continental, which recalled 500,000 tires Aug. 19, is short of replacements. It no longer makes the ContiTrac AW and General Grabber P275/60R17 tires that were recalled. And it doesn't have enough of the tires it is using for new Expeditions and Navigators to cover the needed replacements.

So far, Ford Motor doesn't plan to divert tires from the new SUVs for replacement use, something it did during a larger Firestone tire recall in 2000 and 2001.

That doesn't please John Hutta of Pensacola, Fla., who is still waiting after three weeks of phone calls and an emergency order by his dealer to get him tires for his wife's Expedition.

''It seems like Ford and the tire company are trying to limit their losses,'' said Hutta, frustrated that new Navigators and Expeditions are being delivered to dealerships with the tires he hasn't been able to get.

Mark Sowka, Continental vice president of original equipment, hopes expedited orders for tires showing actual damage will be filled by the end of next week.

''After the announcement of the recall, we got a flurry of calls that overwhelmed the inventory we had,'' Sowka said. He said the recall letter to owners hasn't gone out because it hasn't been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Continental recalled the tires, manufactured between March 1999 and October 2000, because an early warning system put in place after the Firestone recall flagged a higher-than-normal incidence of tread separation.

Continental hopes to resume production of the discontinued tires to meet the demand for replacements. It says the problem tires have been traced to one production run.

Although Ford doesn't see a need to use tires earmarked for new SUVs as replacements, it said it will help customers who have an immediate need. ''There are provisions for getting them tires as fast as possible and putting them in loaner vehicles in the meantime,'' said spokesman Todd Nissen.

Consumers also can buy other brands of tires as replacements, but they have to pay for them and take a chance Continental will reimburse. ''We do that on a case-by-case basis,'' Sowka said.

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