Updated from 12:33 p.m. EDT
Two months after it recalled tires linked to more than 100 deaths,
on Tuesday named an American executive, John T. Lampe, to replace Masatoshi Ono as chairman, chief executive and president of the Japanese-owned company.
After vowing not to rest until the cause of accidents involving Firestone tires and Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles is determined, Lampe sparred with reporters at a news conference, repeatedly insinuating that
was at fault. For example, to determine the cause of the accidents, the company will investigate every aspect, "including the vehicle," Lampe said.
Bridgestone/Firestone, which has said it will take a $350 million charge for the recall, will likely write down an additional $100 million during the calendar year because of the recall's hurried pace, Lampe said. The company has already replaced an estimated 3.7 million of the 6.5 million tires it recalled, putting it on pace to finish the job next month, Lampe said.
Several weeks ago, Ono asked Yoichiro Kaizaki, the chairman of
, the Tokyo-based parent company, to accept his resignation, said Lampe, who was previously executive vice president of the Bridgestone/Firestone subsidiary.
Analysts said Ono's retirement has been expected since August, when the company recalled tires linked to 101 deaths in the U.S. and to more than 50 abroad. Ono, who is returning to Japan, is still technically a board member. The 63-year-old executive joined Bridgestone in 1959 and became chief executive of the U.S. subsidiary in 1993.
At a news conference in Nashville Tuesday, Kaizaki also named Isao Togashi, a Bridgestone senior vice president for tire production and production technology, to an unspecified management role directly below Lampe. Togashi will focus on manufacturing and process controls, research and development and quality assurance procedures, the company said.
Lampe who made his name rebuilding the company's Dayton tire brand, is regarded as an effective sales and marketing executive, analysts said. His selection counters long-held assumptions that Bridgestone would never name as leader of its American subsidiary a person who does not speak Japanese.
Lampe's success in building market share for the low-priced Dayton brand bodes well for the Herculean task of rebuilding the company image after the recall, said Nicholas Lobaccaro, an analyst at
"Putting an American face on the corporation is likely to be helpful as well as someone who's had enormous success in marketing," Lobaccaro said.
Lampe, 53, said he joined the company as an international trainee in 1973 in Cincinnati after a stint in the military and two in college. He said he spent 12 years overseas for the company.
"We know that many people, not just in the United States, but around the world are now questioning our integrity and the safety of our tires," Lampe said. "And we know that we can't blame anyone else for people losing trust in Firestone products -- not our customers, not our business partners, not the media or
. The responsibility is ours."
"We will not rest until we have determined the root cause -- or causes -- of the problem," he said minutes later, departing from his prepared script to add the pluralization.
Lampe said sales of Firestone brand tires have been affected "more than I would have liked."
In congressional testimony last month, Ono took personal responsibility for the tire recall. But Lampe suggested that Ford's recommendations for lower tire inflation on its Explorers had contributed to the accidents. He told a congressional panel that the company sent a letter to Ford Wednesday urging the automaker to change its tire-pressure recommendations for Ford Explorer owners to 30 pounds per square inch from 26 pounds.