Ethics Essay

Submitted By hwangty
Words: 1446
Pages: 6

Ethics Essay:
Ford Pinto Madness

Todd Hwang


I. Introduction
II. Test-Evidence Hiding
III. Ignoring the options
IV. Economic vs. Ethical Decision
V. The Numbers
VI. Lobbyist Techniques
VII. Conclusion

I. Introduction

The Ford Motor Company debuted a new line of cars called Ford Pinto in 1971. In order to compete in a new American market of subcompact cars, with the advice of Lee Iacocca, the automobile was designed and produced in one of the shortest production planning time. In addition, Iacocca enforced the engineers to have the car less than 2,000 pounds and not cost over 2,000 dollars, also known as “the limits of 2,000”. While it was successful in releasing it on time and follow “the limits of 2,000”, the lack of production planning time caused a serious design flaw: a Pinto’s gas tank ruptured and the car would ignite on fire when it was rear-ended. The Ford Motor Company had an access to a much safer gas tank design, but refused to implement the design, which would have cost 11 dollars per car. The reason was because Ford was able to argue in terms of accepted cost-benefit analysis to determine that the new gas tank design costs were greater than the benefits of saving 180 lives per year. The cost-benefit analysis included a dollar value on human life of 200,000 dollars.1 While Ford Motor Company used accepted cost-benefit analysis to determine if the implementation of the new gas tanks was beneficial to the cost, I believe that it was unethical to use different lobbying techniques to delay Standard 301, which would have forced rear-end provisions, and have killed 180 lives per year by negligence.

II. Test-Evidence Hiding

As mentioned in the article by Mark Dowie, because of the shorter production planning process, they were tooling even before the product was fully developed. After they developed the car, they secretly tested the car. It was a known problem internally that the gas tanks will always rupture when rear-ended at a relatively low speed. Ford officials knew of this problem. However, they held these tests at a top-secret site and have kept the internal company documents hidden for years. To combat this issue, they tried and passed three tests unbroken gas tanks with three different modifications.2 However, they did not implement any of these modifications to the mass production and rolled them out of factories. I believe it is unethical to hide the truth from the public. The consumers have the right to know what tests have been done and what the results of that tests were. Ford Motor Company failed to be transparent and even denied under oath having crash-tested the Pinto.

III. Ignoring the options

When designing and developing Pintos, the engineers have found the flaws and reported them as unsafe. Iacocca, president of the project, knew of the issue as well, but did not take any actions because he did not want to the Pinto to cost over 2,000 dollars. This put a tough limitation on the production team. When Ford officials found out about the issue, they have tested different ways to prevent rupturing gas tanks. As I mentioned before, there were three different ways that passed the rear-end test. One method used an inexpensive plastic baffle. Another method used a piece of steel. Third method used a rubber bladder to use as lining the tank. All of these three options were ignored to cut the cost in manufacturing. In addition, during the pre-production planning, engineers considered using the same tank as used in the Capri models, which was found to be successful over 50 crash tests of rear-end impacts of 60mph. This option was also ignored. All these safer options were ignored by all the Ford officials and the firetrap automobiles were mass produced for years. This is another reason why I believe Ford was unethical. They had multiple opportunities and options to save thousands of lives, but they turned their eyes and decided to focus on the profits instead of