Ford and Goodyear are working together to assist customers affected by Ford's massive recall of all Firestone Wilderness AT tires on the automaker's vehicles.

Meanwhile, Bridgestone/Firestone, which went through a bitter corporate divorce with Ford, is going on the attack, claiming the Ford Explorer is defectively designed, and asking the federal government to investigate the popular SUV.

Several Explorers with Firestone tires were involved in a rash of roll-over accidents, many of them fatal. The automaker blames the tiremaker for bad tires prone to tread separation. The tiremaker blames the automaker for designing a vehicle with "oversteering" problems that led to the rollovers.

Last week, Ford and Firestone severed ties, then Ford announced it would replace 13 million Firestone Wilderness AT tires on Explorer and other Ford vehicles. That's in addition to 14.4 million tires replaced last year amid the tire shredding/rollover controversy.

Ford is now turning to Goodyear as a partner in the latest tire recall. The two companies arranged for Ford customers to get Ford-approved replacements for Wilderness AT tires at more than 5,000 Goodyear retail outlets at no charge to the customer.

In addition, Goodyear is arranging to ensure adequate availability of approved Goodyear tires at Ford and Mercury dealerships through its own network of independent tire dealers and Goodyear company-owned stores. Increased shipments began last week.

Goodyear boosted production at seven North American plants to speed replacement tires to Ford customers.

"I am delighted with our partnership with Goodyear and all that they are doing...," says Jacques Nasser, Ford CEO and president.

"Ford is certainly a valued customer of Goodyear...," says Sam Gibara, Goodyear chairman and CEO.

"When tires fail, either from a tread separation or a road hazard or other causes, drivers should be able to pull over, not roll over," says John Lampe, Bridgestone/Firestone chairman and CEO.

But Ford says about three million Goodyear tires have virtually performed flawlessly on more than a half million Ford Explorers from 1995 to 1997.