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Pinto Fires

Pinto Fires


The following essay discusses the explosion of Ford Pinto because of a defective fuel system design. In addition, it identifies the relevant parties, their obligations, and the decisions individuals can take in case there are in charge. This case of Ford Pinto fires led to the deliberation of many issues, most of which were centered on the risk/benefits analysis and the ethics surrounding the decisions that were made by the Ford Motors Company.

Pinto Fires

The Ford Motor Company in 1968 decided to introduce a subcompact car that would be produced domestically. To increase the market share, the Pinto automobile was designed within a short period, and it was developed on an accelerated schedule. As a result, the Pinto was not excellent; therefore, after a few years of sale, the automobile was involved in accidents that caused fires and even fatalities. In this regard, the following essay identifies the relevant facts about the case and pertinent ethical issues, as well as shows moral conflicts and the relevant affected parties. More so, it discusses the consequences of the alternative course of action, shows relevant obligations, and demonstrates appropriate community standards that should guide a person of integrity. Lastly, it provides the decisions I would make if I were the coordinator of the Ford Motor Company.

Identification of Relevant Facts

First, there is a need to identify the relevant facts of the Pinto fires cases. On August 10, 1978, three teenage girls were driving the Ford Pinto sedan (Trevino & Nelson, 2014). After refueling, the driver did not close the gas cap properly, which consequently fell. On the realization that the cap had fallen, the driver decided to stop the automobile in the middle of the road and looked for the cap. Unfortunately, a 400-pound van stuck the Pinto sedan from behind, resulting in the death of three teenagers. Based on this fact, the Indiana state brought charges against the Ford Motor Company. It accused the firm of reckless homicide because the car had no precautionary measures to stop the fire.

The second fact, in this case, is the questionable design of Ford Pinto. In particular, the cars fuel tank should have been located above the rear axle. Instead, it was placed behind it to increase the trunk space, leading to the rear-end collision vulnerability of the car (Trevino & Nelson, 2014). Additionally, other factors contributed to the increased risk of fires. First, the distance between the gas tank and the rear axle was only nine inches. Second, some bolts were in a position that threatened the fuel tank. Finally, the fuel-filter-pipe was designed in such a way that, in the case of a collision, it would fall off the tank, causing spillage that would lead to fires.

Furthermore, according to Trevino and Nelson (2014), another relevant fact was that the Ford Motor Company defended itself by saying that it conducted a risk/benefits analysis as required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Such tests can justify the company if the monetary cost of making the production change is greater that the social interests of the given change. By the way, the problem faced by Ford Pinto shows that the human and emotional situations are not considered in the risk/benefits analysis. Moreover, the Ford Motor Company contended that by firmly following the risk/benefits analysis, it was not required to make the production change to the car.

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Identification of Pertinent Ethical Issues

Furthermore, it is worth identifying the pertinent ethical issues and points of moral conflict. First, according to Trevino and Nelson (2014), some people argued that the prosecution acted unethically on the day of the persecution of the Ford Motor Company by gathering and hiding evidence and information from the perpetrators about the condition of the Pinto sedans involved in accidents. Whether this was true or false, this kind of litigation would cause damage that the Ford Motor Company would take years to recover.

Another ethical issue concerns the risk/benefits analysis conducted by the company. The risk/benefits analysis caused a public debate about the determination as to whether the design of the Pinto fuel tank would be altered to reduce the risk of fires because of accidents. However, Ford Motors determined that the $11 cost per Pinto was too high and chose not to make the production change of the Pinto Model (Trevino & Nelson, 2014). This decision was based on the risk/benefits analysis that made it acceptable for 180 people to die (Trevino & Nelson, 2014). When considering a case-by-case analysis, this decision gives the impression to disregard the human life. From the human viewpoint, Ford Motors ignored the injured persons rights, hence making the decision not to introduce changes to the Pintos model unethical.

Identification of the Involved Parties

The third relevant issue is to identify the involved parties in the Pinto fire case. The first party was the Ford Motor Company which introduced Ford Pinto in the market. Precisely, Lee Iacocca, the former Ford Motor Companys president, persuaded the CEO to produce Pinto cars. The production of Ford Pinto was done on an accelerated schedule. Consequently, if the company had offered to redesign the automobile, it would have faced losses.

Another party involved was the government which had policies, regulations, and standards that had to be followed during the production of Ford Pinto. For example, if the Ford Motor Company had adopted the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the fatality rate would have reduced by 40%. The NHTSA was another government board that affected the Pinto fire case. Precisely, the Ford Motor Company justified itself, stating that it used risk/benefits analysis that the NHTSA required it to conduct.

The most crucial party, in this case, was the people affected by the fatalities and injuries that the Pinto fire caused. For example, it includes the individuals who lost their lives or sustained injuries from the accidents and the families of the affected who suffered much from the automobile accidents. The last party involved was the public, precisely the ethics activists who were against the continued production of Pinto Ford at the expense of the human life (Trevino & Nelson, 2014).

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Alternative Courses of Action

The best alternative course of action would be redesigning the automobile and compensating the affected individuals. Consequently, this course of action would make sure that the new design that would have prevented the accident undergoes the liability standards requirements test. More precisely, it was important to compare the additional cost created by the alternative design. In Pintos case, Ford would incur an addition of $11 cost per unit of changing the fuel system design. Thus, the Ford Motor Companys risk/benefits analysis showed that cost to redesign would be 2.5 times larger than the resulting benefits. As a result, the company would undergo massive losses that would even lead to the bankruptcy of the enterprise. In the case of compensating the affected individuals, the company would have taken more time and resources solving this issue. Therefore, this form of action would be considered time wasting.

Relevant Obligations

Another important issue is to identify appropriate obligations of different parties involved in the Pintos case. According to Trevino and Nelson (2014), responsibilities included designing and constructing an automobile that was safe to be used under various circumstances such as accidents and fires. Additionally, it was the companys obligation to compensate its customers in case the developed automobile had defects and redesign vehicles to avoid the repeat of the same problems. On the other hand, the obligation of the government is to ensure that the automobile companies develop vehicles under the stated standards and policies that guarantee the safety of its citizens. Lastly, users of the car should be responsible for all their actions to avoid adverse consequences of their carelessness. For instance, after refueling the automobile, the driver should make sure the fuel tank cap is tightly closed to avoid fuel leakage which, in case of an accident, results in fires that cause death and injuries of the automobiles occupant (Trevino & Nelson, 2014).

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Relevant Community Standards

Furthermore, there are community standards that should guide an individual to be a person of integrity, especially in the case of Pinto fires. These community standards include considering human life the most important thing to be taken care of, and it should be given the priority over any monetary value. The second community standard is the use of the act of utilitarianism that takes into account that the company should minimize the harms involved, especially to the public. In addition, the relationship between the involved parties should be friendly. Therefore, an individual should make sure the benefits outweigh the harms in any given situation. The third standard is ensuring that the health and safety precautions are followed in the development of any particular component. By following these safety precautions, the well-being of the customers are considered. Alternatively, the issue of whether the benefit outweighs the cost should not govern an individuals moral judgment (Trevino & Nelson, 2014).

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Conclusion and Recommendations

After considering the above facts and arguments, it is possible to decide what one can do and even evaluate the individuals guts. Precisely, if I were the one in charge in this kind of a situation, it would be difficult to watch life being lost, considering it is my responsibility to ensure passengers safety. As a result, a guilty conscience will haunt the individual responsible. Hence, I will take full responsibility for my actions by making the following decisions, namely to compensate the affected individuals and to take measures such as redesigning the Ford Pinto to avoid such incidences in the future.