NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said Tuesday it will fly tires from its Japanese plants to speed the replacement of the 6.5 million Firestones recalled in the United States.
The first shipment of 5,000 tires will leave Wednesday, and at least 10 more shipments are planned through Sunday. A spokeswoman said the company has not determined the total number of tires that will be sent from Japan.
Earlier this month, Bridgestone/Firestone recalled all P235/75R15 ATX and ATX II tires as well as Wilderness AT tires in the same size made at a Decatur, Ill., plant. Most of the tires were on Ford trucks and sport utility vehicles, including the Explorer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 62 deaths and more than 100 injuries in connection with the tires. In many cases, the tread separated from the tire, causing a blowout and a rollover accident.
The recall created an apparent shortage of 15-inch replacement tires.
Mastoshi Ono, Bridgestone/Firestone chief executive, said the tiremaker wants to complete the recall ahead of its spring target.
''With this assistance from our parent company, our own stepped-up production in the U.S. and the support of other tire manufacturers as well as Ford, we are confident that we can beat that schedule,'' he said.
On Monday, Ford Motor Co. said it will shut down three assembly plants for more than a week to free up more than 70,000 tires for use as replacements for the recalled Firestones.
On the Net:
Ford Motor Co.: www.ford.com
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: www.nhtsa.gov