The Ford Pinto-Ethics

Clearly, Ford’s CEO Iacocca was an Egoist. People were definitely considered morally irrelevant in his decision-making framework. The Pinto safety issue was evaluated utilizing a Utilitarian framework motivated by the CEO’s Egoism. From a risk management standpoint, this may be the most dangerous combination in a decision-making. The Procedural steps of the decision making framework was Utilitarian in nature, Ford chose the action that would cause the least amount of harm for the majority involved, therefore allowing the minority to be harmed by death.

Apparently, Ford did not care about the type or severity of harm they caused. They chose a lower number of estimated deaths as opposed to a higher number of financial harm. The decision to view death as a viable option was fueled by Egoism. Fords CEO, Iacocca, was an integral part of the Egoism utilized in the decision making in that he viewed Ford’s customers/consumers as morally irrelevant. This was made clear when Iacocca intentionally underestimated/ignored and concealed the fact that the Pinto engine would ignite upon small rear impact.

Clearly, Ford could have disclosed the dangers of the Pinto to consumers, thereby allowing consumer consent, but they did not because it would slow or stop him from achieving Ford’s goals. Further, Iacocca did not take people’s values into consideration when rendering a decision on the Pinto safety hazard; instead he projected his own values in the decision-making framework. A true Utilitarian method to determine a course of action is to take an actual vote in which each person affected in the situation votes on the basis of their own values.

When others values are not considered, and an Egoist is in charge, there is a high probability that immoral behavior will occur. An Egoist will actually rationalize why an immoral situation should be considered in order to justify the immoral action. In the Pinto case, Iacocca actually approved the manufacture of a death trap without disclosing the danger to consumers by rationalizing that people; do not care about safety, people want inexpensive cars, people do not want to know all the information about a vehicle, and people value money.

As a true Egoist, Iacocca acted upon his values, which were a product of his own self-interest. He rationalized Ford’s immoral actions of manufacturing the Pinto into a morally sound decision thereby completing the production and sale of the Ford Pinto by any means necessary. Further, Iacocca had an opportunity to change the production method of the Pinto at a low cost to prevent the gas tank from igniting, or to offer the customer an option to purchase upgraded safety features, however these options were denied as Egoism prevailed once again.

Iacocca refused both options to protect consumers because he had a production plan that would afford no alterations whatsoever, even at the cost of loss of human life. In the Pinto case, Ford’s decision-making framework is a great example of why it is not a good business strategy to employ an Egoist whom recklessly views consumers as a means to their selfish ends. Iacocca viewed people as objects to be manipulated and harmed in order to achieve his ultimate ‘end’ of high Pinto sale numbers.

This type of individual is extremely dangerous to a company because their decisions allow for high impact accidents that may cause long term or irreparable damage to a company’s finances and reputation. In sum, from a risk management standpoint, the safest most morally correct decision making framework to utilize is the ‘Respect for Persons’. Truly and beautifully stated by Kant, “a human being regarded as a person, is exalted above all price. As an end in himself he possess a dignity by which he exacts respect for himself from all other beings in the world’.

People deserve respect……………. had Ford utilized this philosophy as a decision making framework, they would have changed the design of the Pinto before release because ‘Respect for Persons’ bases the morality of an action on whether the action itself threatens the freedom and well- being of those involved. Ford would not have sustained the long-term financial and reputational damage from the deaths they caused. Further, Iacocca would have been regarded as a legendary CEO whom was responsible for Ford’s success, as opposed to a disgraced former CEO and murderer.