The Ford PintoCase 2.2 The Ford PintoTh ere was a time wh en the ? made in Japan? label brought a predictable smirk of superiority to the faceof most Americans. The quality of most Japanese products usually was as low as their price. In fact, fewimports could match their domestic counterparts, the proud products of Yankee know- how. But by thelate 1960s, an invasion of foreign- made goods chiseled a few worry lines into the coun-tenance of U. S.industry. In Detroit, worry was fast fading to panic as the Japanese, not to mention the Germans, beganto gobble up more and more of the subcompact auto market. Never one to take a backseat to thecompetition, Ford Motor Company decided to meet the threat from abroad head- on. In 1968, Fordexecutives decided to produce the Pinto. Known inside the company as ? Lee?s car,? after Ford presidentLee Iacocca, the Pinto was to weigh no more than 2,000 pounds and cost no more than $ 2,000.20 Eagerto have its subcompact ready for the 1971 model year, Ford decided to compress the normal drafting-board- to-showroom time of about three- and- a- half years into two. The compressed schedule meantthat any design changes typically made before production- line tooling would have to be made during it.Before producing the Pinto, Ford crash- tested various prototypes, in part to learn whether they met asafety stand-ard proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA) to reducefires from traffic collisions. This standard would have required that by 1972 all new autos be able towithstand a rear- end impact of 20 mph without fuel loss, and that by 1973 they be able to withstand animpact of 30 mph. The prototypes all failed the 20- mph test. In 1970 Ford crash- tested the Pinto itself,and the result was the same: ruptured gas tanks and dangerous leaks. The only Pintos to pass the testhad been modified in some way? for example, with a rubber bladder in the gas tank or a piece of steelbetween the tank and the rear bumper. Thus, Ford knew that the Pinto represented a serious fire hazardwhen struck from the rear, even in low- speed colli-sions. Ford officials faced a decision. Should they goahead with the existing design, thereby meeting the production timetable but possibly jeopardizingconsumer safety? Or should they delay production of the Pinto by redesigning the gas tank to make itsafer and thus concede another year of subcompact dominance to foreign companies? Ford not onlypushed ahead with the original design but also stuck to it for the next six years. What explains Ford?sdecision? The evidence suggests that Ford relied, at least in part, on cost- benefit reasoning, which is ananalysis in monetary terms of the expected costs and benefits of doing something. There were variousways of making the Pinto?s gas tank safer. Although the estimated price of these safety improvementsranged from only $ 5 to $ 8 per vehicle, Ford evidently reasoned that the increased cost outweighed thebenefits of a new tank design. How exactly did Ford reach that conclusion? We don?t know for sure, butan internal report, ? Fatalities Associated with Crash- Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires,? reveals the cost-benefit reasoning that the company used in cases like this. This report was not written with the Pinto inmind; rather, it concerns fuel leakage in rollover accidents ( not rear- end collisions), and itscomputations applied to all Ford vehicles, not just the Pinto. Nevertheless, it illustrates the type ofreasoning that was probably used in the Pinto case. In the ? Fatalities? report, Ford engineers estimatedthe cost of technical improvements that would prevent gas tanks from leaking in rollover accidents tobe $ 11 per vehi-cle. The authors go on to discuss various estimates of the number of people killed byfires from car rollovers before settling on the relatively low figure of 180 deaths per year. But given thatnumber, how can the value of those individu-als? lives be gauged? Can a dollars- and- cents figure beassigned to a human being? NHTSA thought so. In 1972, it estimated that society loses $ 200,725 everytime a person is killed in an auto accident ( adjusted for inflation, today?s figure would, of course, beconsiderably higher). It broke down the costs as follows:Future productivity lossesDirect $ 132,000Indirect 41,300Medical costs Hospital 700Other 425Property damage 1,500Insurance administration 4,700Legal and court expenses 3,000Employer losses 1,000Victim?s pain and suffering 10,000Funeral 900Assets ( lost consumption) 5,000Miscellaneous accident costs 200Total per fatality $ 200,725Putting the NHTSA figures together with other statistical studies, the Ford report arrives at thefollowing overall assessment of costs and benefits:Benefits Savings: 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, 2,100 burned vehiclesUnit cost: $ 200,000 per death, $ 67,000 per injury, $ 700 per vehicleTotal benefit: ( 180 ? $ 200,000) + ( 180 ? $ 67,000) + ( 2,100 ? $ 700) = $ 49.5 millionCostsSales: 11 million cars, 1.5 million light trucksUnit cost: $ 11 per car, $ 11 per truckTotal cost: 12.5 million ? $ 11 = $ 137.5 millionThus, the costs of the suggested safety improvements out-weigh their benefits, and the ? Fatalities?report accordingly recommends against any improvements? a recommendation that Ford followed.Likewise in the Pinto case, Ford?s management, whatever its exact reasoning, decided to stick with theoriginal design and not upgrade the Pinto?s fuel tank, despite the test results reported by its engineers.Here is the aftermath of Ford?s decision: ? Between 1971 and 1978, the Pinto was responsible for anumber of fire- related deaths. Ford puts the figure at 23; its critics say the figure is closer to 500.According to the sworn testimony of Ford engineers, 95 percent of the fatalities would have survived ifFord had located the fuel tank over the axle ( as it had done on its Capri automobiles). ? NHTSA finallyadopted a 30- mph collision standard in 1976. The Pinto then acquired a rupture- proof fuel tank. In 1978Ford was obliged to recall all 1971? 1976 Pintos for fuel- tank modifications. ? Between 1971 and 1978,approximately fifty lawsuits were brought against Ford in connection with rear- end accidents in thePinto. In the Richard Grimshaw case, in addition to award-ing over $ 3 million in compensatory damagesto the victims of a Pinto crash, the jury awarded a landmark $ 125 million in punitive damages againstFord ( later reduced by the judge to $ 3.5 million) . ? On August 10, 1978, the 1973 Ford Pinto thateighteen- year-old Judy Ulrich, her sixteen- year- old sister Lynn, and their eighteen- year- old cousinDonna were riding in was struck from the rear by a van near Elkhart, Indiana. The gas tank of the Pintoexploded on impact. In the fire that resulted, the three teenagers were burned to death. Ford wascharged with criminal homicide. The judge in the case advised jurors that Ford should be convicted if ithad clearly disregarded the harm that might result from its actions, and that disregard represented asubstantial deviation from acceptable stand-ards of conduct. On March 13, 1980, the jury found Ford notguilty of criminal homicide. For its part, Ford has always denied that the Pinto is unsafe compared withother cars of its type and era. The company also points out that in every model year the Pinto met orsurpassed the government?s own standards. But what the company doesn?t say is that successfullobbying by it and its industry associates was responsible for delaying for seven years the adoption ofany NHTSA crash standard. Furthermore, Ford?s critics claim that there were more than forty Europeanand Japanese models in the Pinto price and weight range with safer gas- tank position. ? Ford made anextremely irre-sponsible decision,? concludes auto safety expert Byron Bloch, ? when they placed such aweak tank in such a ridicu-lous location in such a soft rear end.? Has the automobile industry learned alesson from Ford?s experience with the Pinto? Some observers thought not when twenty years later anAtlanta jury held the General Motors Corporation responsible for the death of a Georgia teenager in thefiery crash of one of its pickup trucks. Finding that the company had known that its ? side- saddle? gastanks, which are mounted outside the rails of the truck?s frame, are dan-gerously prone to rupture, thejury awarded $ 4.2 million in actual damages and $ 101 million in punitive damages to the parents of theseventeen- year- old victim, Shannon Moseley. After the verdict, General Motors said that it still stoodbehind the safety of its trucks and contended ? that a full examination by the National Highway TrafficSafety Administration of the technical issues in this matter will bear out our contention that the . . .pickup trucks do not have a safety related defect.? Subsequently, however, the Department ofTransportation determined that GM pickups of the style Shannon Moseley drove do pose a fire hazardand that they are more prone than competitors? pickups to catch fire when struck from the side. Still,GM rejected requests to recall the pickups and repair them, and later the Georgia Court of Appealsthrew out the jury?s verdict on a legal technicality? despite ruling that the evidence submit-ted in thecase showed that GM was aware that the gas tanks were hazardous but, to save the expense involved,did not try to make them safer. Expense seems to be the issue, too, when it comes to SUV rollovers.After nearly three hundred rollover deaths in Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone tires in the late1990s, Congress mandated NHTSA to conduct rollover road tests on all SUVs. ( Previously, the agencyhad relied on mathematical formulas based on accident statistics to evaluate rollover resistance, ratherthan doing real- world tests.) In August 2004 NHTSA released its results, and they weren?t pretty? atleast not for several of Detroit?s most popular models. The Chevrolet Tahoe and the Ford Explorer, inparticular, have between a 26 and a 29 percent chance of rolling over in a single- vehicle crash, almosttwice that of models from Honda, Nissan, and Chrysler. The Saturn Vue couldn?t even finish the testbecause its left- rear suspension broke, leading General Motors to recall all 250,000 Vues. Ford andGeneral Motors have the anti- rollover technology necessary to make their SUVs safer. The problem isthat rollover sensors and electronic stability systems add about $ 800 to the price of a vehicle, so thecompanies have offered them only as options. The same is true of side- curtain airbags to protectoccupants when a vehicle rolls over. They cost about $ 500. Improved design? wider wheel tracks, lowercenter of gravity, and reinforced roofs to protect passengers in a rollover? would also help.Embarrassed by the test results, the compa-nies promised to make more safety features standardequipment on new SUVs. Lawsuits by rollover victims are also prodding the companies to enhance theircommitment to safety. Two months before NHTSA released its results, Ford had to pay $ 369 million indamages? one of the largest personal-injury awards ever against an automaker? to a San Diego couplewhose Explorer flipped over four- and- a- half times when they swerved to avoid a metal object on thehighway.Discussion Questions1. What moral issues does the Pinto case raise?2. Suppose Ford officials were asked to justify their decision. What moral principles do you think theywould invoke? Assess Ford?s handling of the Pinto from the perspective of each of the moral theoriesdiscussed in this chapter.3. Utilitarians would say that jeopardizing motorists does not by itself make Ford?s action morallyobjectionable. The only morally relevant matter is whether Ford gave equal consideration to theinterests of each affected party. Do you think Ford did this?4. Is cost- benefit analysis a legitimate tool? What role, if any, should it play in moral deliberation?Critically assess the example of cost- benefit analysis given in the case study. Is there anythingunsatisfactory about it? Could it have been improved upon in some way?5. Speculate about Kant?s response to the idea of placing a monetary value on a human life. Is doing soever morally legitimate?6. What responsibilities to its customers do you think Ford had? What are the most important moralrights, if any, operating in the Pinto case?7. Would it have made a moral difference if the savings resulting from not improving the Pinto gas tankhad been passed on to Ford?s customers? Could a rational customer have chosen to save a few dollarsand risk having the more dangerous gas tank? What if Ford had told potential customers about itsdecision?8. The maxim of Ford?s action might be stated thus: ? When the cost of a safety improvement would hurtthe bottom line, it?s all right not to make it.? Can this maxim be universalized? Does it treat humans asends in them-selves? Would manufacturers be willing to abide by it if the positions were reversed andthey were in the role of consumers?9. Should Ford have been found guilty of criminal homicide in the Ulrich case?10. Was GM responsible for Shannon Moseley?s death? Compare that case with the case of Ford and thePinto.11. Assess Ford?s and GM?s actions with respect to SUV roll-overs. Have the auto- makers met their moralobligation to consumers, or have they acted wrongly by not doing more to increase SUV safety? Shouldthey be held either mor-ally or legally responsible for deaths from roll- overs that would not haveoccurred in other vehicles? What should automakers do to increase SUV safety?12. Is it wrong for business to sell a product that is not as safe as it could be, given current technology?Is it wrong to sell a vehicle that is less safe than competing products on the market? Are there limits tohow far automakers must go in the name of safety?Order for a custom written PAPER now and one of our online writers will write your assignment from scratch within your deadline! Category: Essay Writing
Unlike most other websites we deliver what we promise;
- Our Support Staff are online 24/7
- Our Writers are available 24/7
- Most Urgent order is delivered with 6 Hrs
- 100% Original Assignment Plagiarism report can be sent to you upon request.
GET 15 % DISCOUNT TODAY use the discount code PAPER15 at the order form.