Ford Pinto Case

TitleFord Pinto Case
Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsLadenson, R
Corporate Authorsof Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, IIT
Date Published04/1995
PublisherCenter for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsbusiness , ENGINEERING , product , product liability , professional , professional responsibility , PUBLIC , public safety
AbstractIn designing its 1971 Pinto, the Ford Motor Company decided to place the gas tank behind the rear axle. Mounted in this position, the tank was punctured during tests by projecting bolts when hit from the rear at 20 NIPH. Ford decided, however, not to change the position of the gas tank primarily in order to reduce production costs. An internal memorandum written in 1971 recommended that Ford should wait to do this until 1976 when the government was expected to introduce fuel tank standards (none existed in 1971). The memo estimated that by waiting until 1976 the Company could save 20.9 million dollars. In addition, the Company decided not to install a part costing $6.65 per unit which Ford engineers determined could reduce the risk of the gas tank puncturing in a collision at 20 MPH. In 1977 the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration claimed that a safety defect existed in Pintos manufactured from 1971 to 1976. In 1978 Ford ordered a recall of nearly 2 million vehicles. Between 1971 and 1978 plaintiffs brought about 50 lawsuits against Ford in connection with Pinto rear end collisions.Did the Ford engineers involved in designing and testing the Pinto, who were aware of the problems associated with the placement of the gas tank behind the rear axle, fail to meet their ethical responsibilities by not taking steps to bring these problems to the attention of the public? If so, why? If not, why not?
NotesCase study from the 1995 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Copyright, Robert Ladenson, Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1995.
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