Ford Pinto- Marketing Ethics

Better Essays
Amy Bruney
Marketing Ethics

I. Introduction

II. Literature Review

III. Recommendations & Implications for Marketing Managers

IV. Conclusion

V. Sources

“For seven years the Ford Motor Company sold cars in which it knew hundreds of people would needlessly burn to death.” Mark Dowie, Author of Pinto Madness (8)

One of the biggest automotive news stories in the latter part of the 1970’s dealt with tales of exploding Ford Pintos and the considerable awards civil court juries were presenting to victims of accidents involving the cars. Ford produced the Pinto automobile from 1971 to 1980. Initially the car sold well, but a defect in the early models made Pintos prone to leaking
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The gas tank was positioned according to industry standard at the time, between the rear bumper and the rear axle, but studs protruding from the rear axle would puncture the gas tank. Upon impact, the fuel filler pipe would break, resulting in spilled gasoline. The Pinto basically turned into a death trap. Ford crash tested a total of eleven automobiles and eight resulted in potentially catastrophic situations. The only three that survived had their gas tanks modified prior to testing. (2) Ford was not in violation of the law in any way and had to make the decision whether to incur a cost to fix the obvious problem internally. There were several options for the fuel system redesign. The option most seriously considered would have cost Ford an additional $11 per vehicle. Under the strict $2000 budget restriction, even this nominal cost seemed large. In addition, Ford had earlier based an advertising campaign on safety, which failed miserably. Therefore, there was a corporate belief, attributed to Lee Iacocca himself, of “safety doesn’t sell”. (2) Taking an ethical approach to the Ford Pinto case makes accepting the risk/benefit analysis performed by the Ford Motor Company difficult. In making what seems to be the correct decision based on numbers, Ford in essence adopted a policy of allowing a certain number of people to die or be injured even though they could have prevented it. Ford’s decision
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