Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsHarris, CE, Pritchard, MS, Rabins, MJ
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsENGINEERING , professional , professional responsibility , PUBLIC , public safety
AbstractIn the late 1960s ford designed a subcompact, the Pinto, weighing less than 2,000 pounds and selling for less than $2,000. Anxious to compete with foreign-made subcompacts, Ford brought the car into production in a little more than two years (compared with the usual three and on-half years). Given this shorter time frame, styling preceded much of the engineering, thus restricting engineering design more than usual. As a result, it was decided that the best place for the gas tank was between the rear axle and the bumper. The differential housing had exposed bolt heads that could puncture the gas tank if the tank were driven forward against them upon rear impact. These prototypes as well as two production Pintos were crash tested by Ford to determine, among other things, the integrity of the fuel system in rearend accidents.... Prototypes struck from the rear with a moving barrier at 21-miles-per-hour caused the fuel tank to be driven forward and to be punctured, causing fuel leakage.... A production Pinto crash tested at 21-miles-per-hour into a fixed barrier caused the fuel tank to be torn from the gas tank and the tank to be punctured by a bolt head on the differential housing. In at least one test, spilled fuel entered the driver’s compartment....Although the federal government was pressing to stiffen regulations on gas tank designs, Ford contented that the Pinto met all applicable federal safety standards at the time. J.C. Echold, director of automotive safety for ford, issued a study entitled "Fatalities Associated with Crash Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires." This study claimed that the costs of improving the design ($11 per vehicle) outweighed its social benefits.
Abbreviated Case NamePinto
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