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Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 1996 Toyota RAV4 that came with Bridgestone tires. The front tires lasted more than 40,000 miles. We replaced them with another pair of Bridgestones because we were so impressed. Now, after more than 60,000 miles, the rear tires need replacing. We were just about to replace them with another pair of Bridgestones when the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan. Are they safe or not?

-- Ro
Ray: Wow. This is tough question, Ro. Not everybody knows that Bridgestone bought Firestone a few years ago, so now they're the same company: Bridgestone/Firestone. And, of course, Firestone is the manufacturer of the now-infamous ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT radials that have been implicated in quite a few deaths.

Tom: We're also learning that Bridgestone/Firestone management might not have been entirely honest about what -- and when -- it knew about the problem tires.

Ray: So, do you buy tires from this company? Well, on the one hand, there's no evidence to suggest that the quality problems extend to Bridgestone tires.

Tom: On the other hand, evidence suggests that the company has been less than forthright with the American public and government safety officials, even when it suspected serious problems with its tires -- problems that were resulting in people's deaths.

Tom: For now, if I had to guess, I'd say that Bridgestone tires are probably fine in terms of safety. But you'll have to look at how Bridgestone/Firestone handled the Firestone defects and decide whether or not this is a company you want to do business with, Ro. That's your decision.

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