Auto Service World
News   July 5, 2001   by Auto Service World

U.S. Analyst Claims NHTSA Tracking Phantom Firestone Failures

An acclaimed U.S. automotive industry analyst has reported finding an error in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration’s database that produces records of Firestone tire failures where there was none.
Ed Wallace, host of a weekly radio show and a contributor to a number of automotive publications, says that it’s not always a Firestone product quality failure but a simple programming error that often produces a record of a Firestone failure — in the database that the NHTSA has used to track tread separation by tire. The agency’s view differs.
Wallace reported to listeners that he discovered an embedded Sort-command error in the database. Wallace often uses his own software programs to validate the reams of data he uses in the show, his weekly “Wallace Report” newsletter and columns he writes for national publications.
Among Wallace’s findings: A flawed “Sort Command” would assign one incident of alleged tire separation to two completely different vehicles — one of which would only be a computer generated accident. It often then transposed data such as tire brand and type, mileage of vehicle and or tires, and what manufacturing location had originally made the tires. Reading his correspondence with NHTSA aloud, including its thanks for his “independent verification of the error,” Wallace told his audience that this error could have induced reports of many Firestone tire failures on Ford products in the media, failures that never actually happened.
In responding to media inquiries, however, NHTSA has stated that the problem has been corrected — and that it only existed for 10 days. Wallace has said that he doubts that statement as to the amount of time the database was incorrect. Additionally, the agency’s website credits Safety Forum, not Wallace, with discovering the error.
Wallace is making all his findings and data public. His correspondence with NHTSA, the agency’s replies verifying the problem, how he found this error, what it could mean to individuals, and the entire original NHTSA database are available for download and independent verification at

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