DETROIT - Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. plans to announce a recall of about 20 million tires for light trucks and sport utility vehicles that have been implicated in more than 40 fatal accidents, a source familiar with the decision said Tuesday.
Most of the Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness tires are on Ford Explorers, the industry's top-selling SUV, but the recall will include tires on all brands of vehicles, the source said on condition of anonymity.
An announcement is expected Wednesday in Washington.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 270 complaints, including reports of 46 deaths and 80 injuries, about failing Firestone truck tires.
The complaints alleged that Firestone tires peel off their casings, sometimes while the light trucks or SUVs are traveling at high speeds.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. and Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone, which is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp., had insisted the tires are safe, but the source told The Associated Press that the two companies decided on a recall after a private meeting with NHTSA investigators Tuesday.
Liz Neblett, a NHTSA spokeswoman in Washington, confirmed that a meeting occurred, but declined to elaborate, adding: ''Since Ford and Firestone have been very good about cooperating with us, I'm sure the meeting went well.''
Firestone spokeswoman Susan Sizemore declined to comment on whether Firestone had decided to issue a recall. ''At this point, we have no news,'' Sizemore said.
Ford spokesman Ken Zino also declined to comment.
Discount Tire, Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck and Co. have stopped selling the tires because of safety concerns.
Ford has replaced Firestone tires for free on vehicles sold in Venezuela, Ecuador, Thailand, Malaysia, Colombia and Saudi Arabia after tires failed in those countries, but has resisted pressure to do so in the United States, saying the matter was under investigation.
The recall will begin immediately in Southern states and eventually spread nationwide, the source said.
Most of the accidents reported to NHTSA came from Texas and Southern and Southwestern states with warmer climates. Heat can effect tire tread bonding and may be associated with an increased rate of tread separation.
General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Subarea also sell the Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires as original equipment on SUVs and pickups.
All have said they have received no complaints about the tire.
The NHTSA investigation was opened in May and in the preliminary inquiry stage. An investigation eventually can lead to a recall, but many are dropped.
On the Net: Bridgestone/Firestone: http://www.bridgestone-firestone.com
Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.gov