Pinto Controversy

The Ford Motor Company is America’s well known largest automotive retailer. They’re relatively known for their big and strong vehicles within the automotive market. Around the 1970’s, Ford released its first compact size car, in competition with imported Japanese and Volkswagen vehicles. Following the creation of the Pinto, there was a controversy alleging a flaw in the structural design in its fuel tank that can lead to a dead fire explosion.

For instance, Mark Dowie, a general manager of the Mother Jones wrote an article explaining, in the case of a rear-end collision, “… The buckled gas tank would be jammed up against the differential housing (that big bulge in the middle of your rear axle), which contains four sharp, protruding bolts likely to gash holes in the tank and spill more gas. Now all you need is a spark from a cigarette, ignition, or scraping metal, and both cars would be engulfed in flames” (Dowie, 1977). Consequently the question is, should Ford be held morally responsible for the accidents caused by releasing the Pinto in the car market.

Resulting the deaths of many innocent consumers, Ford should be held morally responsible of the major flaws the Pinto consisted of. Reason being, the creation of the Pinto was rushed; realising the issue the Pinto had Ford continued making more cars, and lastly, Ford looked at cost benefits putting a dollar value on human which is ethically wrong. These reasons compromise as to why Ford should be held responsible for the unfortunate loss of the innocent victims.

The planning and production that went into Pinto was constructed in a very small time frame. With the Japanese and Volkswagen producing compact efficient cars in the market, Ford wanted to jump in line as well, thus creating the Pinto in nearly half the time it would normally take to create a new product in the car market. Lee Iacocca become the president of the Ford Company after the victory creation of the Mustang and decided to compete in the compact car business. Lee ordered the engineering department to create the shortest production plan in automotive history. Normally in the 1970’s it would take 43 months to produce a new modelled car from scratch, but the Pinto was set to be produced in shockingly less than 25 months. Usually product development such as, designing, planning, advanced engineering, and quality assurance can be done concurrently while the tooling would start to take place after product development has been done.

When creating the Pinto, the product development and tooling was done simultaneously together, thus by the time engineers discovered the fuel tank flaw the tooling was already set in motion and did not decide to stop production. Hence the rush of production results in Ford`s responsibilities of the defect in the gas tank.

Next, Ford realising the flaw in the Pinto didn’t decide to stop production or do anything to solve the issue. Ford knew the Pinto was a fire disaster and instead of changing production to resolve the issue he thought it would be cost effective in settling million dollar law suits, furthermore spending millions more lobbying against safety standards. Back in 1970’s Ford makes about 24% of the cars on the road and after taking statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reposting System (FARS) maintained by the government, it showed 1.9% of the fire associated passenger accidents were by Pinto’s. This helped Ford win many cases against the company and tried concluding the Pinto was never an unsafe car and the government had no such safety standards at that time. As a result Ford kept using loop holes around the system to help buy time to produce more cars into the market making loads of profit with the Pinto.

This brings us to our last point, Ford waited eight years before making the Pinto a much safer vehicle, so that his profits wouldn’t be affected. At the time of the controversy, Ford came up with a study, depicting the technical improvement costing $11 per car would have prevented gas tanks from erupting but was not so cost-effective for society, after the government set the figure for a burn death at $200, 000.

Ford convinced higher authorities and the government stating certain safety standards would bark up the price of cars resulting a drop in sales. Ford also claimed, making such safety changes would bring a net loss to the Ford Company, forcefully shutting down the company and bringing down America’s economy. Furthermore, Ford is morally wrong in terms of the ethical theory of utilitarianism, the idea of maximizing utility, producing the greatest net benefit. When you make a determination about any particular course of action, your goal is to maximize your profits, in other words, the greatest good for the greatest number. Utilitarianism states, one must look all persons involved when making a decision rather than just looking at one’s self. Ford in this case only took into consideration of his business and put a dollar value on a human’s life resulting the deaths on many innocent individuals.

All in all, the immediate creation of the Pinto; the continuation of production after the discovering the flaw, and lastly, Ford looking at cost benefits putting a dollar value on human is intolerably wrong resulting Ford liable to the deaths of many innocent individuals.


“Ford Pinto.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. .

Hoffman, W.Michael. “Corporate Obligations and Responsibilities.” The Ford Pinto. N.p., n.d.. .

Dowie, Mark . “Pinto Madness.” Mother Jones. N.p., n.d. .

“1971-1980 Ford Pinto.” HowStuffWorks. Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2014. .