Legal Ethical Issues Surrounding the Ford Pinto

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Introduction

To create a subcompact automobile that is both inexpensive and beautiful, as well as economical to operate, Ford Motor Company made a dubious judgment about the location and protection of the gasoline tank beneath the vehicle. Manufacturing a car with a safer tank in a more convenient position was doable, but Ford Motor Company prioritized the fashionable life and cost of the consumer over the vehicle’s safety.

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Ford Motor Company’s Pinto subcompact automobile gained notoriety in the 1970s for exploding into flames if its gas tank was damaged in an accident. Plaintiffs’ lawsuits revealed how the firm hurried the Pinto through manufacturing and into the market.

Automobile engineers were more concerned with cost containment and design, and the example reveals how engineers made judgments within the framework of marketing goals. The legal and ethical difficulties surrounding the Ford Motor Company will be thoroughly examined in this article. For example, the Ord Pinto case poses a moral question of suppressing knowledge and disrespecting human rights for the sake of making a profit. Pinto utilized data from the NHSTA to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, but they failed to consider the safety of their clients.

Core Ethical Dilemma

The Ford Pinto case sparked a lengthy ethical discussion. Ford Motor Company manufactured the Ford Pinto from 1971 until 1980. Due to the numerous incidents involving the car, the Ford Pinto was widely regarded as a death trap. Referring to an incident that occurred in Indiana on 10th August 1978, Judy Ulrich, an eighteen-year-old, her sixteen-year-old sister Lynn, and their eighteen-year-old cousin Donna were driving their 1973 Ford Pinto when they were struck from behind by a van. Following the accident, the gas tank burst, engulfing the area in flames. Ford was charged with criminal murder in connection with the deaths of the three youngsters. The court informed the jury in this case that Ford should be punished if they overlooked the potential harm caused by their actions. Ford Motor Company was found not guilty of the offense by a jury. Ford Motor Company was aware that the car was defective and that the gas tank may result in serious injury or death. The organization calculated and conducted an analysis to determine the risk associated with placing the gas tank towards the back of the vehicle. It was determined that manufacturing a safer car would cost around $11.00 extra each vehicle, totaling 137 million dollars. Due to irresponsibility, Ford Motor Company chose to create vehicles that were highly flammable in the event of a collision. Between 1971 and 1978, the Ford Pinto was revealed to be responsible for multiple fatal fires. Ford claimed that just 23 individuals died during this time period, although statistics indicates that the actual number was closer to 500. Ford engineers said that 95% of fatalities might have been averted if the gasoline tank had been placed in a different location over the axle. During the same time period, Ford was sued fifty times for rear-end collisions involving the Pinto. Ford’s knowledge that the location of the gasoline tank constituted a major threat to the automobile’s users and its failure to act to correct the situation demonstrates certain aspects of carelessness. In comparison to other automobiles of that era, Ford Motor Company has always argued that the Pinto was unsafe. The business stated that the Fort Pinto complied with and exceeded federal criteria. The business did not reveal that effective lobbying by it and its industry colleagues delayed the implementation of any NHTSA crash standard by seven years. Additionally, Ford opponents asserted that there were over forty European and Japanese vehicles in the same price and weight range as the Pinto, and the gas tank was positioned more safely. Ford made an exceedingly risky move by placing such a fragile tank in the soft back end, where it was particularly vulnerable in the event of an accident.

Ethical Framework

The business did not reveal that effective lobbying by it and its industry colleagues delayed the implementation of any NHTSA crash standard by seven years. Additionally, Ford opponents asserted that there were over forty European and Japanese vehicles in the same price and weight range as the Pinto, and the gas tank was positioned more safely. Ford made an exceedingly risky move by placing such a fragile tank in the soft back end, where it was particularly vulnerable in the event of an accident. Ford Motor Company was an adherent of the utilitarian philosophy. Utilitarianism is a philosophy that focuses the full emphasis on the outcome when determining what is right or bad. The corporation was devoted to profit maximization and was unconcerned about the techniques employed to accomplish this goal.

The Ford Pinto had a relatively minor influence on the majority of individuals and so had a negligible effect on society as a whole. Numerous individuals desired to secure their own and their families’ safety. This means that Ford Motor Company had a moral duty to guarantee that their automobiles were safe and did not endanger the lives of its consumers. It is highly immoral for a business to focus exclusively on profit and disregard the safety of the product’s users. Consumers place a huge amount of faith in manufacturers, and as a result, manufacturers should emphasize providing the finest possible products and services to their customers.

Utilitarianism is a legal and ethical idea that is applied through cost-benefit analysis. From this vantage point, the most ethical option is one in which the advantages of certain behaviors exceed the drawbacks. Although Ford may have sought to depict its choice in this manner, it is uncomplicated to see Ford’s cost-benefit study as utilitarian in character. In the Ford Pinto case, we may deduce that the firm may have acted legally and hence was not culpable, but society believes differently. For was making judgments based on a cost-benefit analysis in which they utilized the government’s ‘value of a life’ to determine the costs associated with the projected number of accidents caused by their decision vs the cost of installing a better gas tank to attempt to prevent these tragedies.

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The Ford Pinto case exemplifies a classic corporate fight between profit and ethics. Businesses frequently assess their success in terms of profit and net assets. This may seem obvious to many, but in order to accomplish this aim, some of these businesses must choose between cost savings and providing superior service to their customers. During the discussion of the Ethical Frameworks, I was struck by the words “Do not fall in love with a particular framework.” This simply implies that one’s decision-making should not be constrained by the framework in which he or she thinks. Individuals should be adaptable and adopt a framework that is “appropriate” to their circumstances.

As anticipated, the study reveals that the cost of adding extra materials exceeds the cost of potential accident expenses. As a result, Ford decided against installing the material. As an accountant, I can attest that Ford made a sound financial decision that will result in significant profits for the firm, but as a Lasallian leader, this is not a move I would have considered. On begin, assigning a monetary value to one’s life appears to be a very bad idea. To Ford’s credit, this is a government-commissioned review, not their own. However, if we notice anything incorrect, as people with the ability to alter how things operate, Ford may have diverged from such norms rather than patronizing them. Then there’s the understanding that having a gas tank with a higher potential of bursting puts Ford in a bad light, and doing nothing about it already puts Ford in a bad light. Their desire to be the first to market bit them in the tail, and their action altered the course of the car business. Finally, Ford’s use of their influence and money to postpone the introduction of a more comprehensive automotive safety statute demonstrates how they do not prioritize the safety of their consumers when making judgments.

Torts are all recognized civil offences that can result in a lawsuit. Tort law demands that all manufacturers place a premium on customer safety. As an ethical corporation, Ford Motor Company should have placed a premium on consumer safety. The Ford Pinto on which Grimshaw and Gray were travelling was involved in an accident as a result of this recklessness, and both cars were left on their frames. Grimshaw and Gray sued Ford Motor Company solely for this carelessness.

The Ford Pinto case included contract law, as the Ford Pinto came with guarantees that were offered to consumers upon purchase. Ford Motor Company should be required to honor the contract since it is a legally enforceable agreement. They negligently failed to notify consumers of the Ford Pinto’s faults in their competence to warn. Ford Motor Company determined that the benefits exceeded the drawbacks and hence chose not to act appropriately about the Ford Pinto’s problematic parts.

Lee Iacocca was the CEO of Ford Motor Business during the period when the company developed the Ford Pinto automobile. Iacocca established a renowned career during his tenure with the Ford Mustang automotive type. As a result, it was believed he might assist Ford Motor Company in manufacturing the Pinto. His primary issue was that he desired to outperform all Japanese imports. Iacocca said in his argument that VW and Japanese automobiles will eventually dominate the American market and that Ford Motor Company would be forced to introduce a competitor to the VW Beetle. As CEO, Iacocca owed a moral obligation to both Ford Motor Company’s stakeholders and consumers. By failing to operate ethically, Ford Motor Company’s reputation was jeopardized. Iacocca has a moral duty to safeguard the company’s interests.

Lessons Learned

The ethical question that keeps lingering in my mind is if it is possible for the automobile manufactures to ensure consumer safety. Ford Motor Company was aware of the fact that the Ford Pinto gas-tank design was faulty but unethically went ahead to produce and sell the car. Out of negligence, they failed to notify the consumer that the vehicle was defective. The company could have rectified the problem with only $11.00, but they were unable to act ethically. Due to this unethical decision by Ford Motor Company, many individuals sustained injuries while others died. It is a moral obligation of a company to act ethically for the safety of its consumers.

Recommendation

I believe that Ford Motor Company did the wrong thing. I would have corrected the gas tank design flaw not only to save someone’s life, but to show the public I am behind my products to possibly keep business later on. One thing people look for when purchasing a vehicle is safety, so this should be an important aspect when building a car. Iwould take a Utilitarianism Approach to try to please the most amount of people. Fixing the design flaw avoids the chance of someone dying from the explosion, and would keep Ford employees from feeling guilty. Lastly, it would have stopped countless court hearings and money having to be paid from Ford Company

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References

Douglas Birsch, (2019). Ford Pinto case. Web.

Ford Pinto: An ethical analysis. (2016). Web.

Hester, P. T., & Adams, K. M. (2017). Ford Pinto case study. In Systemic decision making (pp. 351-384). Springer.

Lütge, C. (2018). Ford Pinto: Is Cost-Benefit Analysis Allowed in Ethical Decision Making? SAGE business cases originals.

Reiff Law Firm. (2021). How Dangerous was the Ford Pinto? The most dangerous car?. Web.

Skorin-Kapov, J. (2019). Ethical positions and decision-making. In Professional and business ethics through film (pp. 19-54). Palgrave Macmillan.

Strother, S. (2018). When making money is more important than saving lives: Revisiting the Ford Pinto case. Journal of International & Interdisciplinary Business Research, 5(1), 166-181.

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The Pinto memo: “It’s cheaper to let them burn!” (2008). The Spokesman-Review. Web.

Wojdyla, B. (2017). Ford Pinto fuel tanks: Epic Auto Failures. Popular Mechanics. Web.

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