In the late 1960’s, Ford Motor Company was being pressured by its stockholders and the American public to design and manufacture an inexpensive and efficient compact car to compete with other similar vehicles such as the Volkswagen Beetle and Chevrolet Vega. In response, Ford Motor Company began designing the Ford Pinto, a two-door subcompact car that would take only 25 months to engineer, as opposed to the industry average of 43. Furthermore, engineers discovered during the pre-production phase that “rear-end collisions would rupture the Pinto’s fuel system extremely easily ”, which would in turn exponentially increase the odds of the vehicle bursting into flames. As a result, Ford engineers developed two solutions that would entail a relatively small cost per vehicle; the first involved repositioning the fuel tank above the axel, placing it out of the way. The second involved reinforcing the current tank with a rubber bladder to prevent it from leaking fuel if punctured. In spite of this, Lee Acocca, the president of Ford at the time, and other senior executives within the firm decided based on a cost-analysis, that pushing forward with manufacturing and compensating burn victims would be a more economical decision. Although the decision was controversial, the Ford Pinto met the standards and laws set by government regulators within the industry. It was subsequently manufactured and distributed between 1972 and 1980 and since then “by conservative estimates, ha[s] caused 500 burn deaths to people who would not have been seriously injured if the car had not burst into flames .”
In February of 1978, Ford Motor Company was sued for $128 million, which amounted to more than three times the amount that had been previously predicted. Three months later, Ford began recalling the defective vehicles in order to reinforce the fuel tanks. In 1980, production of the Pinto ceased.
The Ford Pinto case brings about numerous ethical issues regarding product liability, corporate social responsibility, and respect for other human beings. Firstly, when senior executives at Ford Motor Company made the decision not to repair the hazardous fuel tank, they failed to consider all of the stakeholders involved. Although bringing value to the firm’s shareholders is important, there are other actors that should be considered prior to coming to a conclusion. Secondly, Ford failed to produce a safe product for their consumers, even though they obeyed the standards and laws within the industry. In some cases, obeying the law is not synonymous with being ethical, which is why individuals and businesses should strive to go above and beyond to create a safe and reliable product. Lastly, Ford neglected to inform the public about the flaw that its engineers had found. This brings about the idea that customers should be privy to all of the information regarding a product, especially when their well-being is at stake.
The fact that...