1978: Ford Pinto Recall 47
reckless homicide. This was the first time a corporation was tried for crimi-
nal behavior. In order to prevent a legal precedent for all manufacturing
industries, Ford assembled a defense team led by Watergate prosecutor
James Neal. During the ensuing media trial, the defense convinced the jury
that the Pinto involved in the accident was stopped when it was hit by the
van.Therefore a low-speed collision did not occur, and the deaths were not
the result of reckless homicide. Although Ford was found innocent, the
reputation of the Pinto was forever harmed by the trial (Gioia, 1994).
APPLICABLE REGULATIONS
Portions of Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, Part 571; S301, are listed below.
The rear-moving barrier crash requirement that the Pinto did not pass is S6.2.
In this passage, GVWR stands for gross vehicle weight rating.
S1. Scope. This standard specifies requirements for the integrity of
motor vehicle fuel systems.
S2. Purpose. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and
injuries occurring from fires that result from fuel spillage during and
after motor vehicle crashes.
S3. Application. This standard applies to passenger cars, and to
multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses that have a
GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less and use fuel with a boiling point
above 32° F, and to school buses that have a GVWR greater than
10,000 pounds and use fuel with a boiling point above 32° F.
S4. Definition. “Fuel spillage” means the fall, flow, or run of fuel from
the vehicle but does not include wetness resulting from capillary
action.
S5. General requirements.
S5.1 Passenger cars. Each passenger car manufactured from
September 1, 1975, to August 31, 1976, shall meet the requirements
of S6.1 in a perpendicular impact only, and S6.4. Each passenger car
manufactured on or after September 1, 1976, shall meet all the
requirements of S6, except S6.5.
...
S5.5 Fuel spillage: Barrier crash. Fuel spillage in any fixed
or moving barrier crash test shall not exceed 1 ounce by weight
from impact until motion of the vehicle has ceased, and shall
not exceed a total of 5 ounce by weight in the 5-minute period
following cessation of motion. For the subsequent 25-minute period
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48 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
(for vehicles manufactured before September 1, 1976, other than
school buses with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds: the subsequent
10-minute period), fuel spillage during any 1-minute interval shall
not exceed 1 ounce by weight.
S5.6 Fuel spillage: Rollover. Fuel spillage in any rollover test, from
the onset of rotational motion, shall not exceed a total of 5 ounces
by weight for the first 5 minutes of testing at each successive
90° increment. For the remaining testing period, at each increment
of 90°, fuel spillage during any 1-minute interval shall not exceed
1 ounce by weight.
S6. Test requirements. Each vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or
less shall be capable of meeting the requirements of any applicable
barrier crash test followed by a static rollover, without alteration of
the vehicle during the test sequence. A particular vehicle need not
meet further requirements after having been subjected to a single
barrier crash test and a static rollover test.
S6.1 Frontal barrier crash. When the vehicle traveling longitudinally
forward at any speed up to and including 30 mph impacts a fixed
collision barrier that is perpendicular to the line of travel of the
vehicle, or at any angle up to 30° in either direction from the
perpendicular to the line of travel of the vehicle, with 50th-percentile
test dummies as specified in Part 572 of this chapter at each front
outboard designated seating position and at any other position
whose protection system is required to be tested by a dummy under
the provisions of Standard No. 208, under the applicable conditions
of S7, fuel spillage shall not exceed the limits of S5.5 (Effective:
October 15, 1975)
S6.2 Rear moving barrier crash. When the vehicle is impacted from the
rear by a barrier moving at 30 mph, with test dummies as specified
in Part 572 of this chapter at each front board designated seating
position, under the applicable conditions of S7, fuel spillage shall
not exceed the limits of S5.5.
S6.3 Lateral moving barrier crash. When the vehicle is impacted
laterally on either side by a barrier moving at 20 mph with
50th-percentile test dummies as specified in Part 572 of this
chapter at positions required for testing to Standard No. 208, under
the applicable conditions of S7, fuel spillage shall not exceed the
limits of S5.5.
S6.4 Static rollover. When the vehicle is rotated on its longitudinal
axis to each successive increment of 90°, following an impact
crash of S6.1, S6.2, or S6.3, fuel spillage shall not exceed the
limits of S5.6.
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