Utilitarian Evaluation of Ford Pinto Case Utilitarian approach is based on simple cost-benefit analysis of each individual issue. The rule by which utilitarian classifies an action as moral if it produces more good than bad, and immoral if it produces more bad than good. In other words, cost-benefit analysis determines the morality of actions by measuring the consequences and how favorable they are to the people overall. These consequences include harm, honesty, justice and rights. According to Mills, no harm should be done to others, people should not be deceived and their rights to life, free expression, and safety should be acknowledged.
The action that I am going to evaluate is Fords reckless neglect of these principles, manipulation of the utilitarian theory to fit companys needs and unethical behavior in the Ford Pinto case. Many sides were affected by the Fords decision. The company, its CEO Lee Iacocca, and its customers were directly involved, and all the people driving behind the Pintos, insurance companies and many others were indirectly involved. To summarize the case, the Ford Pinto went on sale with hazardous design errors in the position of the fuel tank and near bolts, and the inclination for the fuel valve to leak in rollover accidents.
Mr. Iacocca rushed his engineers to make a design and produce a vehicle that will be less than 2000 pounds heavy and it would cost less than $2000. This turned out to be a good idea because Pinto sales were booming until 1972 when four people died. The accidents were occurring more and more and costing Ford millions in law suit damages. The Ford then did the cost-benefit analysis and demonstrated an abuse of Hu utilitarian principles, because the engineers knew about the errors and the company continued to sell the car as it was, without safety modifications.
According to Leggett, Ford weighed the risk of harm and the overall cost of avoiding it. (Leggett) In terms of numbers Ford estimated $10000 for victim’s pain and suffering and also took into consideration the cost to society for each estimated death. After conducting certain research Ford came up with some numbers: 180 deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, 2100 vehicles lost. The total cost amounted to $49. 5 million. Next step was to calculate the cost of recalling the cars and eliminating the error.
The projected total of recall was $137 million, for 11 million vehicles at $11 dollars per tank and $11 per unit for other modifications. In the eyes of Fords executives, this decision was easy to make as costs outweighed benefits by $87 million (Leggett). The value of human life was put a figure on, and people became economic commodities through this cost benefit analysis. I came across information that the Ford even overestimated the cost of recall and that more accurate number would be about $63. 5 million in cost of modification. In my opinion Ford had to bear $15 million in order to save the lives of the people who trusted it.
If Ford did this, utilitarian ethics and normative principles would be satisfied and this action would provide the most good the for most people involved. At the end, Ford was punished in a way that they paid much more in compensations then their cost analysis predicted. It is true that Ford did not do anything illegal, their Pinot design followed all the standards at that time but they knew about errors and dangers for people driving it and disregarded ethics, misinterpreted utilitarianism and made morally wrong decision at that time aspects (Lacey).
Hu Ford Pinto case is one of the most controversial ethical dilemmas ever presented in the business world. Ford tried to use utilitarian approach to make a decision and in that way knowingly tried to put dollar amount next to people lives. Ford followed the guidelines of the theory but it misinterpreted and abused the findings and failed to apply ethical concepts in change for companys profits. In my opinion, no theory can be used to put a value on life in exchange for money. Ford disregarded the inherent principles of utilitarianism and their action is morally wrong.
Ford made a decision not to recall Pintos showed their belief that they did not do anything wrong, and because they did not at first due to insufficient safety tests it was not their fault and they did not try to deceive the general public. After they found out about flaws, they conducted utilitarian analysis to help them make a decision that will maximize the good overall. Well, the theory cannot measure people deaths and losses and Ford felt that on their skin through millions in lawsuits and compensations to all the people involved.
It is not possible to estimate consequences correctly or put numbers between benefits and harms by a simple costbenefit analysis. In theory, the assessment of consequences can be used to measure overall good or bad effect. In reality, this will rarely provide trustworthy results of the amounts of good or bad as a consequence of taking or not taking certain action. Many companies use cost-benefit analysis to consider the morality of their actions in the modern business world, which advocates positive influence of utilitarianism
ethical business practice. Nonetheless, this influence is only positive to the extent that the costs are truly represented and precisely determined. To conclude, following the steps of utilitarian analysis I ruled that Fords cost benefit analysis did not provide truthful results and understated the cost of human life. For that reason, Hu their action not to recall the Pintos provided more bad than good for all the parties involved and according to the utilitarian approach this was a morally wrong decision. Works Cited Birsch, Douglas and John Fielder.