The Ford Pinto designs had the placement of the fuel tank behind the rear axle. The fuel tank position has allowed the projecting bolts to puncture the tank when the vehicle was struck from the rear. The Ford Motor Company had decided not to change the fuel tanks design location in order to reduce the production costs. Ford Motor Company determined there would be a savings of approximately $20.9 million dollars. Between the years of 1971 and 1978 the Ford Motor Company faced about 50 lawsuits in connection to the Ford Pinto collisions. The obvious question is who is responsible or aware of the design flaws of the fuel tank placement. Furthermore what are the ethical dilemmas associated with this case study? I hope to determine whether Ford was to blame for Ford Pinto collision outcomes.
In order to understand the ethical dilemmas that are addressed within the Ford Pinto case, we must identify the people that have roles within the case. The Ford Motor Company would be one of the obvious stakeholders of the ethical decisions made. Mr. Iacocca (Executive Vice President) made the decision to move on with the production of the Pinto because he felt the studies conducted under the supervision of Mr. Robert Alexander (VP of Engineering) were feasible. Later, a former Ford engineer, Harley Copp testified that Ford management’s decision to proceed with the Pinto production was a decision made with awareness of the vulnerabilities of the fuel tanks to being punctured by the protruding bolts of differential. And it was later validated that the crash test results were forwarded up to the management. The Ford management made the decision to deviate from changing the design because it wasn’t cost efficient.
Another stakeholder that may have had a strong influence on the decision made by the Ford management is the shareholders. As a shareholder you represent part ownership of the company. Shareholders could have made a financial influence on Mr. Iacocca’s decision to continue the production of the Pinto. If the shareholders threatened to sell their shares if the decision was different, then in turn the company’s stock value would plummet. What are the dilemmas posed from the cultural relativism? Does society view those actions taken by Ford Company acceptable? The people have proven that truth is the best practice when conducting business, so therefore the truth is relative. In cultural relativism you must compare systems of law, politics and the beliefs within the environment. Take for instances, the Government has established the Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA). TINA was enacted for the purpose of providing full and fair disclosure by contractors in the conduct of negotiations with the Government.
Shareholders probably looked at the consequences of the decisions of the Ford management. In doing so, their actions could be viewed as teleology. The shareholders took in account of the purpose of the decision or the end result. Which result would benefit them the best?
Everyone that was involved with the Ford Pinto dilemmas faced deontological ethics. They would have been faced with the question of, are my actions moral and is it my obligation to make the right decision. We are all faced with this decision on a daily basis. Researchers at Cornell have found that people make an average of 226.7 decisions about food alone. I know that a decision about food doesn’t compare to the decision that was faced by Ford, I wanted you to understand how frequently decisions are made by our minds.
In conclusion, I believe that the Ford management did not make the right decision simply based on the ethical category definitions. Teleology simply states that you will look at the consequences and whether you are acting for the greater good. And staying true to cultural relativism Ford was not acting for the great of good, because you can never place a price on a human life. Ford demonstrated to society what is not acceptable culturally or legally. Ford can prevent further ethical violations or clarify dilemmas by having multiple levels that a decision similar to the Pinto case should have to process through. Included within the levels, should include legal services or even more specific and Ethics Lawyer. Money should never trump a human life.
Government Contracting Reference Book (hardcopy)