50 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
between the fuel tank and a bolt on the differential housing” (Strobel,
1994). Additionally, the tank was punctured twice by nearby metal objects
and both passenger doors jammed shut, which would have prevented
quick escape or rescue during a crash. This pattern of gasoline spillage
remained consistent in other crash tests at lower speeds. On December 15,
1970, when a Pinto was rear-ended by a moving barrier at 19.5 miles per
hour, the filler pipe pulled out, causing gas to escape and the left door to
jam shut.
Later, in early 1971, Ford engineers investigated various design changes to
improve crash test results.With a heavy rubber bladder reinforced with nylon
lining the metal gas tank, gasoline did not spill during a 26-mile-per-hour
crash into a cement wall. The bladder was estimated to cost $6 per car. An
alternative liner of polyurethane foam between the inner and outer metal
fuel tank shells was estimated at $5 per car. To prevent fuel tank puncture
by the differential housing, engineers suggested an ultra-high-molecular poly-
ethylene shield, which was estimated to cost $0.22 per car. Normally, a Pinto
would have been extensively damaged and spilled gas when crashed back-
ward into a cement wall at 21 miles per hour. However, with the addition of
two side rails, it sustained considerably less damage and did not leak gas.
These side rails were estimated to cost $2.40 per car. Unfortunately, Ford
executives decided against adopting any of these design changes. (Design
changes require signature approval at several levels of management.) An
October 26, 1971 memo labeled “confidential” documented that there would
be no additional improvements for the 1973 and later models of the Pinto
until “required by law” (Strobel, 1994).
REFERENCES
Chen, D. W., What’s a life worth? NY Times, D4, June 20, 2004.
Cullen, F., Maakestad,W., and Cavender, G., Profits vs. safety. Reprinted in The Ford Pinto Case:
A Study in Applied Ethics, Business, and Technology. Edited by D. Birsch and J. H. Fielder.
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994, 263–272.
Dirksen, S. History of Automobile Safety. Smithfield, RI: Bryant University History of American
Technology Class Project, 1997. http://web.bryant.edu/~history/h364proj/sprg_97/dirksen/
backgrou.html.
Dowie, M., Pinto madness. Reprinted in The Ford Pinto Case: A Study in Applied Ethics,
Business, and Technology. Edited by D. Birsch and J. H. Fielder. Albany, NY: SUNY Press,
1994, 15–36.
Fielder, J. H., The ethics and politics of automobile regulation. Reprinted in The Ford Pinto Case:
A Study in Applied Ethics, Business, and Technology. Edited by D. Birsch and J. H. Fielder.
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994, 285–301.
Gioia, D., Pinto fires and personal ethics: A script analysis of missed opportunities. Reprinted
in The Ford Pinto Case: A Study in Applied Ethics, Business, and Technology. Edited by
D. Birsch and J. H. Fielder. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994, 97–116.
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