On this day in auto history – May 21st

Fri 21st May 2021

It was on this day in 2001 that Ford and tyre giants Firestone/Bridgestone announced a termination of one of the longest-running business partnerships in corporate history.

The two companies originally began working together in 1906 when Henry Ford purchased 2000 sets of detachable tyres from the fledgling company of Harvey S. Firestone, based out of Akron, Ohio.

The Ford deal helped Firestone expand rapidly before the first world war and the two conglomerates enjoyed a largely harmonious relationship until the late 1990’s when a string of fatal accidents involving Ford vehicles pointed the finger towards a high failure rate of Firestone tyres.

The ensuing fallout saw the two companies recall and replace over 23 million tyres worldwide, seeing their respective stock value plummet in the process, and lose an estimated £2 billion each in settling hundreds of lawsuits.

The acrimonious end to the business relationship was made all the more awkward due to the family ties involved. Henry Ford’s grandson had married Harvey Firestone’s granddaughter, meaning that the then Ford chairman - William Clay Ford Jnr - was the great grandson of both the legendary business icons.