Ford Pinto Case Study

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In America, the automobile engineers had first encountered imports such as the Volkswagen with compact cars including the Falcon, Covair, and Dart. These vehicles, with their six cylinder engines, were actually comprised as a larger class of vehicles. Due to the increase popularity of the smaller Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun in May of 1968, the Ford Motor Company, based upon a recommendation by then vice-president Lee Iacocca, decided to introduce a subcompact car and produce it domestically. (Leggett, 1999) The Ford Pinto appeared on the market in 1970, and sales of the car were good for the first few years.

The engineers designed the gas tank to be positioned between the bumper and the rear axle. This design contributed to several fatalities for it made the Pinto more vulnerable to a rear-end collision. In a rear-end collision of about twenty-eight miles per hour or more, the rear of the car would be crushed and the tank would be driven against the differential housing. In a rear-end collision, the gas tank could strike the bolts on the differential housing, causing the tank to split open and fuel to leak out. In addition, the filler pipe, which carries the fuel from the opening in the side of the car to the gas tank, could be torn loose and additional gasoline might leak from this area. This fuel leak could at times start fires which could led to fatalities or serious burns.

The death of three women on August 10, 1918 when their car was hit by another vehicle traveling at a relatively low speed initiated the lawsuits and scandals in which Ford endured for decades focused on the design flaw of the gas tank. Evidence surfaced that the executives at Ford Motor Company were aware and acknowledged that the design was flawed and potentially dangerous. A review of the cost-benefit analysis was deemed insufficient and Ford opted not to change the design of the fuel tank.

This case study will reveal facts and relevant information that will answer the three questions stated below:

1. Why did Ford's leadership make the decisions they made regarding the design flaw issues with the Pinto?

2. Did the engineers of the Ford pinto have an ethical obligation to" whistle blow"?

3. Where a defect in design or manufacturing could potentially lead to death or seriously bodily harm, should a company utilize a risk/benefit analysis?

Why did Ford's leadership make the decisions they made regarding the design flaw issues with the Pinto?

There are a number of interesting and controversial issues connected to the Ford Pinto. The first controversy began in 1967, and was whether or not Ford should build a subcompact. The president of Ford Motor Company, Semon Knudsen, opposed the idea but Ford vice-president, Lee Iacocca, advised and convinced Henry Ford II to proceed with the design. Kndusen resigned and Iacocca later became president of Ford. From the beginning building the Ford subcompact was a very serious business decision.

With Iacocca being the new president he took a very active interest in the production on design of the Ford Pinto. Iacocca wanted the car on the market as soon as possible and ordered an accelerated production schedule. The normal time span from conception to production of a new car model is about 43 months. The Pinto schedule was set at just under 25.(Dowie, 1997) Additionally, there were allegation that Iacocca set rigid weight and price specifications. It was obvious that it was in Ford's economic advantage to get the car on the market as soon as possible and at an inexpensive price. The push was due to Ford's competition with the Chevrolet Vega that would gain market share if the Pinto was not in the showrooms first. Even if there were no rigid specifications, it can be justifiable to assume that the design on the Pinto was established in an environment where two most important factors were presented, time and price.

Due to crash...
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