Ford Pinto – A Car Manufactured by Ford Motor

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The Ford Pinto case study provides an interesting insight into the automotive industry, showcasing the remarkable choice made by the company to launch a product that could potentially result in harm or fatalities. This analysis will delve further into the case, exploring the ethical and moral dilemmas arising from Ford Motor Company’s decisions, as well as investigating the events and underlying factors.

The Ford Motor Company aimed to manufacture a vehicle that matched the standards of the imported Japanese cars in terms of competitive pricing, despite not being recognized for their exceptional quality. Ford’s goal was to develop a car that weighed less than 2000 pounds and had a price tag below $2000 (Shaw & Barry, 2010). As a result, they quickly introduced the Pinto model, which gained infamy due to its fuel tanks exploding. The main flaw of the Pinto was its gas tank, which would leak upon rear-end collisions.

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According to Shaw & Barry (2010), the NHTSA was in the process of mandating rear crash tests at different speeds for vehicles manufactured from 1972 onwards. The Pinto, which was being developed during this time, failed the rear crash test. Despite the fact that the NHTSA regulation was still in development, Ford decided to produce the Pinto without improving the structural integrity of its gas tank and components. It was suggested that Ford could have easily reinforced the gas tank by inserting a piece of steel between the rear bumper and the gas tank at a cost of no more than eight dollars.

Ford’s justification for producing the vehicles in their current state is concerning. According to a cost-benefit analysis performed by the company, which is defined as “an analysis in monetary terms of the expected cost of doing something,” Ford determined that the risk of death and dismemberment was not significant enough to warrant a recall for the gas tank problems in the Pinto. Despite having to allocate funds to address issues arising from this problem, Ford stood to profit approximately one hundred million dollars. It wasn’t until 1976 that Ford was compelled to install gas tanks that were impenetrable in the Pinto, following the adoption of the NHTSA’s thirty mile per hour test.

Despite facing a criminal homicide case in 1980, Ford still maintained that the Pinto was not less safe than other cars of its time (Shaw & Barry, 2010). Ford’s ethical concerns arise from their decision to release a vehicle with the potential for dangerous consequences in rear-end collisions. The choice was made based on a cost-benefit analysis, which determined that reinforcing the gas tanks and potentially preventing fatalities would be too expensive.

According to the case study, critics believe that this decision resulted in a shocking five hundred deaths (Shaw & Barry, 2010). The company faced fifty lawsuits, and although a jury awarded one hundred twenty five million in damages, the judge reduced it to three million five hundred thousand (Shaw & Barry, 2010). Ford’s approach was purely egoistic, prioritizing its own interests over the potential loss of lives. The company aimed to increase its profit margin by producing a domestic automobile to rival foreign autos of similar price.

The exoneration of Ford in a criminal murder case has only reinforced its choice and may have influenced dubious decisions made since then. It is intriguing to relate this to present-day matters in the car industry and the perpetual competition for the title of leading American automaker.

Ford’s actions have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, which could have been avoided. The incident on 10 August 1978 exemplifies the lack of judgement. When the Pinto was hit from behind, its un-reinforced gas tank exploded, causing the death of three individuals who were trapped in the burning car. This tragic event alone demonstrates the severe consequences. However, Ford’s negligence persisted as they dealt with other issues related to their Explorer model, prone to rollovers, in subsequent years. It appears that the manufacturer prioritized profit over safety by cutting corners on multiple models. The implementation of certain technological features, although costly, could have prevented these rollovers.

It is evident that Ford was not willing to invest in resolving issues with their automobiles before they became widely known. The potential solutions to Ford’s problems are easily identifiable. If the company had made necessary modifications to vehicles like the Pinto and Explorer, there would likely have been a significant reduction in fatalities. Allowing unsafe vehicles on the road was both immoral and unethical.

Manufacturing an unsafe vehicle raises significant moral concerns for Ford. The company was aware that enhancing the rear crumple zone with a low-cost piece of metal would guarantee the vehicle’s safety.

If Ford officials were questioned about their choice to include the Pinto in their lineup, it would be difficult for them to justify. Endangering customers’ lives by selling a known hazardous product is morally wrong. Instead of prioritizing the well-being of those affected, Ford prioritized profitability and demonstrated an egoistic perspective rather than considering utilitarian principles.

Cost-benefit analyses are legitimate tools, except when it involves the well-being and safety of consumers. While the analysis itself is not unsatisfactory, how it is utilized is troubling. It is unjust to assign a monetary worth to a person’s life. Unfortunately, this is a component of the cost analyses in the automotive industry, but it is not a mindset commonly held by ordinary individuals.

According to Kant, the decision made by the Ford Motor Company would be categorized as irrational due to its immorality. Kant believes that anyone who is immoral cannot be considered rational. In this case, Ford had a duty towards its customers to produce a product that would not cause harm in the event of a rear-end collision. Therefore, Ford is responsible for recalling and repairing its vehicles.

Despite the moral implications, passing on the savings to the customer would not have altered the outcome. Even if Ford had lowered prices, no rational person would buy a car that could potentially explode in an accident just to save money. If Ford had been transparent about this issue and informed their customers, people would have quickly disassociated themselves from the product. Pintos would have continued to be sold until Ford strengthened the gas tanks and provided evidence of their safety. However, Ford was unable to pursue this alternative because it was dedicated to competing with inexpensive imported cars.

If Ford followed a philosophy stating that safety concerns do not need to be resolved if they are not economically viable, it would be deemed unacceptable. This belief should not and cannot be applied universally. Many companies prioritize humans as an end in themselves, unlike Ford, and personally, I disagree with Ford’s reasoning.

Every life is valuable and should not be reduced to a mere financial worth. If manufacturers were in the consumers’ position, their perspective would likely change. While some businesses have made progress in recognizing this, many still see people as means to an end and attach a monetary value to them.

Ford and GM were equally accountable for the deaths caused by their unsafe vehicles. Despite both companies recognizing the potential problem with the gas tanks, they failed to take any action to address the issue until after people had already been harmed or killed. Consequently, Ford should have faced repercussions for allowing a hazardous vehicle on the roads, just like GM did for Shannon Moseley’s tragic demise in their vehicle.

Both GM and Ford have incorporated technology into their vehicles to tackle the problem of rollovers. Furthermore, there is a warning on the sun visor specifically addressing the potential for rollovers during high-speed maneuvers. However, Ford’s issue stemmed from a combination of both the vehicle and the tires, thereby making the matter more complex.

Although automakers should be morally responsible for the deaths caused by their products, there are several obstacles in legally holding them accountable. These companies have made substantial strides in improving SUV safety by transitioning to car-based models, which lower the risk of rollovers due to a lower center of gravity. Moreover, advancements in technology and improved driver awareness have further enhanced the safety of SUVs. Hence, it is unethical for businesses to sell unsafe products when modern technology is readily accessible.

While there are established standards, selling a vehicle that is less safe than others on the market is not morally wrong. This is because individuals have different preferences when buying a car, including aesthetics, performance, and safety. The diversity of choices in the free market is beneficial. However, there are limits to how much automakers should prioritize safety. It may not be practical or cost-effective to include every possible safety feature in every car. As a result, automakers must ensure the production of secure vehicles at various price points to accommodate those who cannot afford expensive cars with excellent safety records.

Conclusions Ford made a serious mistake by releasing an unsafe vehicle. This decision resulted in the loss of many lives throughout its production period, reflecting both immorality and unethical behavior from the company. It is appalling to knowingly acknowledge the potential for the product to explode when rear-ended and take no action to address the issue. Evaluating the financial worth of a death or severe injury to decide whether or not to resolve the problem is disgraceful. Unfortunately, this is a sad truth within the automotive industry and a deliberate risk that every manufacturer assumes.

Fortunately, NHTSA is an organization that conducts crash tests on vehicles and publishes comprehensive reports on their results. A recent example reminiscent of the Pinto incident is the Chevy Volt. After undergoing crash tests, these vehicles caught fire due to a coolant leakage in the battery. GM acted responsibly by offering to fix the affected vehicles that were already on the roads. Conversely, Ford failed to take similar action.

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Ford Pinto – A Car Manufactured by Ford Motor. (2016, Sep 05). Retrieved from

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