Essay on Ford Pinto Trial

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Ford Pinto Trial

The objective of this paper is to investigate what led to the Ford pinto criminal trial and the impact that it had. What led up to the criminal indictment of Ford, the trial itself, the verdict of the trial will be discussed. The Impact that this trial has had on the Automobile industry will also be investigated.

In the late 1960's there was strong competition from VW and several Japanese companies in the small car market. Due to this competition Ford hurried the design of their small car, the Pinto, to market. Since the car was rushed into market and the specifications for the car were that it weigh under 2000 pounds and cost less than $2000, safety was not a major concern in the design of the pinto.1 In
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In the 1977 September/October issue of Mother Jones there was an article written by Mark Dowie named "Pinto Madness". This article told of Ford's decision to sell a car in which they knew hundreds of people would be burnt to death. To make sure that this information did not just stay in the pages of Mother Jones, Dowie called a press conference on August 10, 1977 in Washington D.C. in order to get national exposure.3 That day as a result of this announcement the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a preliminary evaluation of the Pinto's Dangers. One month later NHTSA announced that they had initiated a formal defect investigation to determine whether the problem constitutes a safety related defect within the meaning of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.2 Mid-February of the next year the Pinto's problems were in the media's headlines again. In a landmark case a jury awarded Richard Grimshaw, a Pinto burn victim, $125 million in punitive damages and another $2.8 million in compensatory damages, "The largest award ever made by a jury in a personal injury case".2 About the same time $666,280 was awarded to the family of Lily Grey, who had died in an accident. These amounts were much more than the $200,000 for a human life and the

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