NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee attorney general is investigating reports that used-tire dealers are selling recalled Firestones to customers, who then can trade them in for free, new replacements under Bridgestone/Firestone's recall program.
Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul Summers, said several states have talked to the company about what she called ''a very serious situation.''
Company spokeswoman Christine Karbowiak said the company is outraged that the recalled tires - suspected in dozens of traffic fatalities - are being resold.
''For people to take these tires and then resell them is not only unethical but quite possibly could jeopardize the safety of the driving public,'' she said.
Seattle television station KIRO reported Thursday that they were able to purchase the recalled tires from several used-tire dealers. At least one dealer said people could buy the used tires cheaply and then go to a Firestone dealer to get the replacements.
Dennis Walton, manager of Freymuller Enterprises in Seattle, told the AP that he had sold a set of the recalled tires to KIRO.
''I made a mistake,'' Walton said. ''I'm not going to sell a tire that can possibly hurt someone. There are a lot of people selling them and they don't care. I do care.''
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating 88 deaths and more than 250 injuries over the past decade involving Firestone tires. A recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX-II and Wilderness AT tires was announced Aug. 9, mostly on Ford Explorers.
It's not known what is wrong with the tires. Bridgestone/Firestone's U.S. chief of quality control acknowledged in a deposition Friday that there is a defect with a small number of the company's tires, an attorney pursuing a lawsuit against the company alleged.
Robert Wyant, who in June took the helm of quality control at Bridgestone/Firestone, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp., declined to comment Friday.
He and other executives were giving depositions as part of a Texas lawsuit set for trial Oct. 16 regarding Nidia and Patricio Leal, who were killed when their Ford Explorer crashed into a utility pole after a Firestone tire blew out.
Meanwhile, Venezuela's Congress will begin public hearings next week to determine whether Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone should be held responsible for at least 46 fatal accidents that allegedly occurred in that country linked to faulty tires mounted on Ford Explorers.
Across the United States, Bridgestone/Firestone is collecting its recalled tires at nine regional sites and 1,500 stores for federal documentation and then shipping them off to rubber recycling plants.
The company has collected 2.3 million tires so far.
Recalled tires brought to Firestone dealers for replacements are not resold to used-tire dealers, spokeswoman Susan Sizemore said.
But because the recall was done voluntarily by Bridgestone/Firestone, used-tire dealers are not obligated to return the tires. In Pennsylvania, officials said they have been investigating resales for the past week but declined to release details.
The Tennessee attorney general's office wrote to Firestone's general counsel on Thursday, requesting information on what the company was doing to remove the recalled tires from sale as used tires.
''Needless to say, this concerns us,'' Cynthia Kinser, a Tennessee deputy attorney general, wrote to Glenn Haase, Bridgestone/Firestone general counsel.
On the Net:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.gov