Government committe to examine tire deaths

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WASHINGTON (AP) Government investigators are examining data collected by a congressional committee that reportedly shows Ford Motor Co. is replacing Firestone tires with other brands that fail more often.

Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of transportation, told the House Commerce Committee that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would give a preliminary response to its analysis on Wednesday.

Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce Committee, disclosed the committee's investigation during a hearing Tuesday, but he refused to reveal which tires had higher failure rates until NHTSA has examined the data.

Joan Claybrook, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said Wednesday that the release of the findings was inappropriate.

''This is really unfortunate the way this is happening,'' Claybrook said on CBS' ''The Early Show.'' ''The Department of Transportation should have been asked to evaluate this information first, then Ford. ... It really should be evaluated quickly and then resolved, as opposed to accusations that are unevaluated.''

Tauzin's move also drew strong criticism from Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, senior Democrat on the committee, and Jacques Nasser, chief executive of Ford. They said Tauzin has a responsibility to let the public know such information.

''If we have a brand name that is defective ... at least tell the American people the brand names,'' Dingell said during a hearing.

Later, Tauzin identified two tire brands, the Goodyear Wrangler HT and the General Grabber AP XL, but did not name five other brands his office said congressional investigators determined had higher failure rates than the Firestone Wilderness AT tires Ford recalled last month.

The replacement tires are made by Michelin, Continental, Goodyear, BF Goodrich and Uniroyal.

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