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Legal Case Study

2047 words - 8 pages

Legal Case Study

The American Automobile industry has historically been tied to the
nations economic cycle in which three or four years were good followed
by one or two poor years. In 1977 there were four major U.S.
automakers including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and American
Motors. Imports were starting to make their presence in the market
because they offered subcompact cars at reasonable prices. Ford
started producing the Ford Pinto on August 10, 1970. Ford accelerated
the planning process and achieved the design and development time in
38 months, compared to the industry average of 43 months. Ford wanted
the car to weigh less than 2,000 pounds and cost less than $2,000. The
only Pinto that was first sold was a two-door sedan. The hatchback
model and station wagon model followed in later years. They also
converted one of its assembly plants from full-size to compact cars in
51 days to help produce many more compact and subcompact cars, which
were overtaking the market. Ford had conducted many tests related to
the Ford Pinto’s fuel system. An early question was where to safely
put the gas tank. They decided to keep the tank in the original
location behind the rear axel even though it was determined that above
the axel would have been safer. Ford had an internal objective of a 20
mph standard that all cars would stand up to the moving crash test.
They ran four tests on prototypes of the Pinto and three of them had
slightly exceeded the one-ounce-per-minute standard. The fourth had a
faulty gas tank so it leaked substantially. They changed the design to
create less leakage and meet the standards set by NHTSA. Ford objected
the standards that NHTSA was thinking about adopting with the 20 mph
fixed barrier test by stating it was impractical. Ford had excessive
leakage at the 20 mph and 30 mph fixed barrier tests that would have
required substantial changes to the design of car. Ford tried the most
efficient way to fix the problem by testing a rubber bladder around
the gas tank. An engineer stated that there was substantial
improvement but the bladders made gas filling difficult in cold
weather due to the bladder stiffing up and they were also ineffective
in hot weather. NHTSA investigated Ford because of consumer complaints
after an article in a Mother Jones magazine. They concluded that there
were more gas tank ruptures but the NHTSA had nothing to compare it to
since they were a relatively new agency. There were many complaints
and a lot of controversy about the Ford Pinto. It was a center of
safety for many years. On May 9, 1978 NHTSA concluded that there was
safety defect to the fuel system of the Ford Pinto for the 1971-1976
model years. There were 38 cases of rear-end collisions that resulted
in fuel tank damage, leakage and/or ensuing fires. From the 38 cases

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