Running head: FORD PINTO
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The case of Ford Motor Company producing the Pinto is a clear example of unethical behavior on the part of an automobile manufacturer, where a potentially dangerous product was knowingly released into the market. While there are some good consequences from the action, such as the jobs that were provided to American employees producing the car, and the individuals provided with an affordable vehicle, these were far outweighed by the negative effects, such as the potential danger from the number of Americans driving the car, those that were actually harmed in crashes, and, eventually, the effects on the Ford employees themselves after their company gained bad publicity from the incident. The fact that these negative consequences greatly exceed the positive ones shows that Ford acted unethically, and this is made all the more egregious by the fact that the company knew about the Pinto's defect prior to release. Although some might argue that the company eventually attempted to recall the product, it took them seven years to do so, and only after they began to spend more resolving lawsuits than they had saved failing to install a protective baffle to begin with. Therefore, the release of the Ford Pinto was unethical, and serves as a cautionary tale for automobile manufacturers to this day.
When attempting to determine whether the release of the defective Pinto was a moral one, it is important to know the stakeholders in this case, and how they were affected, either positively or adversely. To be sure, there were some positive effects from the release of the Pinto, at least for certain stakeholders for some time. The rapid release of the Pinto into the market in 1971 meant that consumers had more rapid access to a car that they could purchase for less than $2,000, and as the 1970s went on, having an affordable car with low gas mileage became even more important (DeGeorge 298, Farley 16). The fact that around 2 million Pintos had been sold by the time that the company began to face criticism shows that for many Americans, these cars were an affordable driving option (Weinberger 45). Even today, some Pinto owners still value their vehicles for their mileage, although they note that they have had to repair them frequently (Farley 16). The employees of Ford and the shareholders in the company also benefited; for a time, the Pinto was one of the most popular Ford vehicles, and with a 40 percent market share for the vehicle, Americans were kept in automotive jobs, and the investors in Ford, along with the owners, were able to continue making profits.
Unfortunately, however, these were not the only consequences of the Pinto's release. The Ford Motor Company knew about the defect that gave the vehicle a potential to catch fire in rear-end collisions above 20 miles an hour, and even rejected putting a baffle in the vehicle for six years to correct the problem (DeGeorge 298-299). Therefore, the action must be assessed in terms of both potential and actual effects, because many of the executives in the company knew that they would eventually be facing some degree of problematic lawsuits and even fatal crashes. In releasing a vehicle to the public had the potential to catch fire, the company was potentially putting not only its 2 million buyers at risk, but also their passengers, and the individuals in the vehicles colliding with them, of being burned, injured, and killed from crashes that would normally only result in minor injuries (Weinberg 46). As it happened, many people did become involved in fatal or fiery rear-end collisions, with 13 occurring between the years of 1976 and 1977, although it seems that the public did not widely catch on to the fact that these cars were at a greater risk of catching fire until Harley Copp, Ralph Nader, and various media sources reported the danger (DeGeorge 299).
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