Ford Pinto Case: The Invisible Corporate Human Pricetag
In this essay, I will argue that Ford Motor Company’s business behavior was unethical as demonstrated in the Ford Pinto Case. Ford did not reveal all the facts to consumers about a harmful gas tank design in the Ford Pinto. They tried to justify their decision to sell an unsafe car by using a Cost-Benefit Analysis which determined it was cheaper to sell the cars without changing to a safer gas tank. The price of not fixing the gas tanks is human injuries and fatalities. By choosing not to make the Pinto a safer vehicle Ford placed a price on the head of every consumer. Ford’s primary concern was to maximize profits. Ford had a duty and ethical responsibility to customers to stop production once they knew of the evident dangers and take the necessary measures to eliminate them by redesigning the gas tank. I will discuss the Ford Pinto Case and the harm Ford Motor Company (FMC) caused by its inability to make decisions that competently respect the wellbeing and rights of people.
“Pinto crashes have caused 500 burn deaths to people who would not have been seriously injured if the car had not burst into flames. The figure could be as high as 900.” Ford was not obligated legally to change the unsafe gas tank design. However, acting legally doesn’t mean the behavior is ethical. Ford was ethically responsible either to inform consumers of the probable harm or stop production when they knew of the apparent danger to buyers and take the necessary actions to eradicate them by redesigning the gas tank. Ford withholding valuable product information that violated the moral rights of others, and exchanging human life for company gains and profits is not only unethical but egregious.
In the late 1960s the idea for the Ford Pinto came about as a result of the influences of foreign auto manufacturers. As a response to the pressures of competition for developing a more fuel efficient and smaller car, Ford Motor Company designed a subcompact car that turned out to be substandard and unsafe. This was due to Ford’s precipitate production of the Pinto in less than adequate time. What should have taken three and a half years from conception to production; ford completed it in two years. Before ford began production, they ran rear-end collision tests on models and the engineers discovered a dangerous design flaw. The gas tank had a significant risk of exploding when impacted from the rear. Ford’s intention was to gain profit and stay on top of market demands for a more economical car.
According to the case there was no legal government safety standards in place at the time the Pinto was in the pre-design stage regarding fuel leaks in rear-end crashes. Before release of the Pinto, Ford crash tested many model cars against the 20-mph moving barrier federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 301, which was just a proposal at the time. All of the tests results were failures, the tests cars when hit from behind had gas tank leakage. Ford engineers continued testing and proposed several safer gas tank designs which were tossed out because of high costs
Ford had knowledge of new design which would lower the probability of the Ford Pinto from catching fire and blowing up; the new design would have cost $11 per car. Ford chose not to use the new design. Their defense was based on a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to determine if the costs of using the safer gas tank design were greater than the cost to pay a settlement to those that got injured or killed. The analysis done with the new design resulted in 180 less deaths occurrences. Ford’s CBA resulted in $12.5 million X $11 per vehicle produced totaling $137 million to change to the safer gas tanks, versus $12.06 million for 180 injuries, $1.47 million for 2,100 damaged cars and $36 million, their value for human life bringing Ford’s total costs to $49.5 million. Ford continued the production on the Pinto with...
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