1978: Ford Pinto Recall 51
Nader, R., Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. New
York: Grossman, 1965, 236.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Investigation report, phase I:Alleged fuel tank
and filler neck damage in rear-end collision of subcompact passengers cars 1971–1976 Ford
Pinto 1975–1976 Mercury Bobcat. 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, 1994a, 77–95.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Motor vehicle safety standard, Part 571; S301.
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, 1994b, 61–75.
Strobel, L., The Pinto documents. 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, 41–53.
Stuart, R., Ford orders recall of 1.5 million Pintos for safety changes: inquiry begun last fall.
NY Times, A1, June 10, 1978.
West’s California Reporter,The Pinto fuel system. 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, 55–60.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Should cost-benefit analysis include the costs of legal settlements and
equipment recalls? What other factors could be considered in this
analysis?
2. View The Fog of War, a 2003 documentary about Robert McNamara
produced by Morris, Williams, and Ahlberg. Robert McNamara, who
received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard,
viewed the world’s problems as solvable through statistical analysis. Of
which ethical theory does this remind you? Based on the film, how did
McNamara use cost-benefit analysis in his decisions (1) on bombing
raids over Japan during World War II? (2) on safety at Ford Motor
Company? (3) on support for the Vietnam War as U.S. Secretary of
Defense? Do you agree with each decision?
3. According to the New York Times, the median payment of families of
September 11, 2001 victims by the U.S. federal government was about
$1.7 million. Three typical payments were summarized. A 26-year-old
woman who worked as an accountant for annual compensation of
$50,000 at a financial services company in the World Trade Center
received $1.6 million. She was single and lived with her mother.
A 40-year-old New York City firefighter, whose annual compensation
was $71,300, received $1.5 million. He was single and was survived by
two parents. A 33-year-old man who worked as an equities trader, for
annual compensation of $2 million, at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World
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52 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
Trade Center received an undisclosed sum. No projected awards were
released for people who made more than $231,000 a year. He was
married, with two children (Chen, 2004). Account for the differences
between the compensation awards in 2004 and the NHTSA human life
estimate of $200,725 in 1972.
4. Could Ford engineers have banded together and postponed the market
release of the Pinto?
5. Did Ford engineers meet their professional responsibilities of protection
of public safety, technical competence, and timely communication of nega-
tive and positive results to management?
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