Ford Pinto

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The Ford Pinto is a subcompact car that was manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company in North America, sold from the 1971 to the 1980 model years. The smallest American Ford vehicle since 1907, the Pinto was the first subcompact vehicle produced by Ford in North America; the Pinto was also the first mass-produced American car sold with rack and pinion steering. The safety of the Pinto fuel-tank design attracted both regulatory scrutiny and legal liability after deadly fires related to the tanks rupturing during rear-end collisions.

Quotes[edit]

1976[edit]

  • Buried in the secret files of the Ford Motor Co. lies evidence that big auto makers have put profits ahead of lives. Their lack of concern has caused thousands of people to die or be horribly disfigured in fiery car crashes. Undisclosed Ford tests have demonstrated that the big auto makers could have made safer automobiles by spending a few dollars more on each car.

1977[edit]

  • By conservative estimates Pinto crashes have caused 500 burn deaths to people who would not have been seriously injured if the car had not burst into flames. The figure could be as high as 900....Ford knows the Pinto is a firetrap, yet it has paid out millions to settle damage suits out of court, and it is prepared to spend millions more lobbying against safety standards....Ford waited eight years because its internal "cost-benefit analysis," which places a dollar value on human life, said it wasn't profitable to make the changes sooner....Lee Iacocca wanted that little car in the showrooms of America with the 1971 models. So he ordered his engineering vice president, Bob Alexander, to oversee what was probably the shortest production planning period in modern automotive history. The normal time span from conception to production of a new car model is about 43 months. The Pinto schedule was set at just under 25....Lee Iacocca’s speed-up meant Pinto tooling went on at the same time as product development. So when crash tests revealed a serious defect in the gas tank, it was too late. The tooling was well under way.
  • A magazine says that Ford Motor Company sold Pinto cars for six years even though company officials knew that the car's fuel tank could easily rupture in rear-end crashes and cause fires. The article by Mark Dowie in |Mother Jones, a West Coast publication circulated to 150,000 subscribers, said that the company had been eager to get the subcompact into production in 1970 and, as a result, had ignored test showing the car was dangerous.
  • The Ford Motor Co. manufactured and sold subcompact Pinto automobiles for six years after...its own crash tests showed the fuel tank could easily rupture and burn in rear-end collisions, a California-based magazine charged today. Mother Jones, the magazine, published by the Foundation for National Progress, of San Francisco, claims that Ford could have prevented at least 500 burn deaths by installing a $1 plastic baffle now on '77 models. Instead Ford lobbied vigorously against tightening of federal highway safety standards until it was forced to put the device on its newest models, according to Mark Dowie, general manager of the magazine and author of the article. Dowie said he obtained a Ford Co. internal memorandum that shows the company conducted a cost-benefit study of proposed modifications to the fuel system, and concluded that the benefit in terms of lives and property saved would be under $50 Million and the cost of changing the design would be $137 million....Nader, speaking at a Mother Jones news conference here yesterday, demanded Ford recall all 3 million Pintos...
  • The initial charges were made in an article in the September-October issue of Mother Jones, a magazine based on the West Coast...Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, supported the charges, saying "This is corporate callousness at the highest level," and that Ford should recall all three million Pintos.
  • The Transportation Department announced yesterday it has launched a major investigation of fuel tank fires in all subcompact cars sold in this country. The action follows charges by Ralph Nader and others that in past models of the Ford Pinto, the gasoline tanks were located in a hazardous position...The charges were made in the September-October issue of Mother Jones, a West Coast-based magazine with 150,000 subscribers...Consumer advocate Nader backed the article's charges, claiming, "This is corporate callousness at the highest level of Ford Motor Co." He said Ford should recall all three million Pintos with vulnerable fuel tanks.

1978[edit]

  • Last August, Ford characterized as "distortions and half-truths" claims by consumer advocate Ralph Nader that the company knowingly permitted sale of Pintos with fuel tanks that would rupture in rear-end accidents. Mr. Nader had demanded investigations by Congress and the National Traffic Safety Board.
  • Is your car safe? Well, if you're driving a Ford Pinto, vintage 1971 to '76, the answer seems to be: Not as safe as it could be.
  • Ford made the decision this June, but the seed of the decision was planted a year ago. it was in August 1977 that Mother Jones, a magazine published in California, printed an article titled "Pinto Madness"; it portrayed the car as particularly susceptible to fires in rear-end crashes. The article was ballyhooed at a Washington press conference by Ralph Nader and its author, Mark Dowie. A flood of calls and letters from outraged or terrified Pinto owners descended on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which opened an investigation that was to last eight months. The agency first ran an engineering analysis of the Pinto, finding that the fuel tank's location and the structural parts around it permitted easy crashing or puncturing of the tank in a crash. Officials also found that the short fuel-tank filler pipe could easily pull away from the tank. There was "real potential for trouble," says Howard Dugoff, the agency's deputy administrator. "The design looked fishy." Then came crash-testing; a letter-writing tug-of-war; the issuance of an initial defect finding that cited reports of 38 such accidents, 27 deaths and 29 lawsuits or liability claims against Ford; the setting of a public hearing for last June 14; and, finally, two meetings between agency and Ford officials. On the basis of the two meetings, the safety officials deduced that Ford was willing to recall the Pinto and that it wanted to do so before a public hearing could generate additional damaging publicity.

1980[edit]

  • It was not until December 30, 1976, however, that the automobile's fuel tank was brought to public attention in a syndicated editorial appearing in The Washington Post. Columnists Jack Anderson and Les Whitten alleged that: "Buried in the secret files of the Ford Motor Co. lies evidence that big auto makers have put profits ahead of lives. Their lack of concern has caused thousands of people to die or be horribly disfigured in fiery car crashes. Undisclosed Ford tests have demonstrated that the big auto makers could have made safer automobiles by spending a few dollars more on each car."
    • Swigert, Victoria Lynn; Farrell, Ronald A. (1980). "Corporate Homicide: Definitional Processes in the Creation of Deviance". Law & Society Review 15 (1): pp. 161-182. 

1981[edit]

  • Ordinarily marketing surveys and preliminary engineering studies precede the styling of a new automobile line. Pinto, however, was a rush project, so that styling preceded engineering and dictated engineering design to a greater degree than usual.

1990[edit]

  • By early June, the verdict in the Ford Pinto case was in, the NHTSA hearing was pending, and segment about the Pinto on the CBS television show, 60 Minutes, was imminent. At this point, Ford decided to undertake a "voluntary" recall.
  • In order to draw attention to the publication of a story that it believed was a political blockbuster, Mother Jones, which is edited in San Francisco, held a press conference in Washington, D. C., at which Mark Dowie, the article's author, was accompanied by Ralph Nader.

1991[edit]

  • The television shows 60 Minutes and 20/20 ran segments in June 1978 that brought the Grimshaw tragedy into millions of American homes.
    • Graham, John D. (1991). "Does liability promote the safety of motor vehicles?"". in Huber, Peter W.; Litan, Robert E.. The Liability Maze: The Impact of Liability Rules on Innovation and Safety. Washington DC: Brookings Institution. p. 132. ISBN 9780815720188. 

1992[edit]

  • ...routine crash testing revealed that the Pinto's fuel tank often ruptured when struck from the rear at a relatively low speed...

1999[edit]

  • Also in 1974, Ralph Nader's Center for Auto Safety asked NHTSA to investigate Pinto fuel tank integrity.
    • Lee, M. T.; Ermann, M. D. (February 1999). "Pinto "Madness," a Flawed Landmark Narrative: An Organizational and Network Analysis". Social Problems 46 (1). 

2005[edit]

  • Beyond the legal problems, Ford was taking a public relations beating...Several months before the article, Jack Anderson had written a column claiming that thousands of people were either killed or disfigured as a result of this poorly designed vehicle....On 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace claimed that he found it difficult to accept that top management would sit there and say "Oh, we'll buy 2,000 deaths, 10,000 injuries, because we want to make some money." 20/20 also came out with a critical episode.
    • Danley, John R (2005). "Polishing Up the Pinto: Legal Liability, Moral Blame, and Risk". Business Ethics Quarterly 15 (2): 205–236.

2009[edit]

  • Recall notices were mailed in September, 1978 and parts were to be at all dealers by September 15, 1978. However, between June 9, 1978, and the date when parts were available to repair the estimated 2.2 million vehicles, six people died in Pinto fires after a rear impact.

2011[edit]

  • ...deep into the development cycle, a problem was discovered in the fuel tank design. In low-speed rear-end crash testing, the fuel tank, positioned behind the rear axle and in front of the rear bumper, exhibited several flaws. Upon impact, the filler neck would tear away from the sheet-metal tank and spill fuel beneath the car. The tank was also easily punctured by bolts protruding from the differential and nearby brackets. One report later described the entire contents of a tank leaking out in less than a minute after an accident. These problems combined to create a serious risk of fire...
  • The process in the more serious voluntary recalls generally starts with consumer complaints and news stories, then proceeds to government investigation and testing, consumer group pressuring, resistance from the auto manufacturer, and an official finding of safety defect. The story of the Ford Motor Company's decision to recall 1.5 million of its 1971-1976 subcompact Pinto cars is illustrative.

2013[edit]

2014[edit]

  • Jack Anderson and Les Whitten were perhaps the first to claim that Ford, despite having the technology to do so, had consciously refused to fix the potentially lethal hazard posed by the placement of the Pinto's gas tank. They began their December 30, 1976, column in The Washington Post by claiming, "Buried in the secret files of the Ford Motor Co. lies evidence that big auto makers have put profits ahead of lives." This "lack of concern," they lamented, "has caused thousands of people to die or be horribly disfigured in fiery crashes." All this, they said, was preventable: "Secret tests by Ford have shown that minor adjustments in the location of the fuel tank could greatly reduce the fiery danger." Moreover, "repositioning of the tank would cost only a few dollars more per car" - not much of a price when human lives are at stake. "In the long run," they warned, "the auto makers are saving little with this 'cost cutting'" Nine months later, these criticisms were elaborated in Mark Dowie's scathing condemnation of Ford, called "Pinto Madness."
    • Cullen, Francis T.; Cavender, Gray; Maakestad, William J.; Benson, Michael L. (2014). Corporate Crime Under Attack: The Fight to Criminalize Business Violence. Routledge. p. 146. ISBN 9781317523666. 
  • To make certain that this message would not remain buried in the pages of Mother Jones, Dowie announced the publication of "Pinto Madness" at a Washington, D. C. press conference attended by Ralph Nader.
    • Cullen, Francis T.; Cavender, Gray; Maakestad, William J.; Benson, Michael L. (2014). Corporate Crime Under Attack: The Fight to Criminalize Business Violence. Routledge. p. 146. ISBN 9781317523666. 
  • Two days after Ford declared its recall, The Pinto received national exposure again...On Sunday evening, June 11, viewers of 60 Minutes were greeted by Mike Wallace's question, "Is your car safe?" He answered, "Well, if you're driving a Ford Pinto, vintage 1971 to '76, the answer seems to be: Not as safe as it could be." He then proceeded to tell the Pinto story. Richard Grimshaw a was the first to be interviewed. The audience learned that he had been in the hospital for four months following his Pinto Burn accident, and had returned for "about 65 major surgeries."...Herbert Misch, a twenty-three year veteran and vice president of environmental and safety engineering at Ford...countered by saying that the value placed on human lives was set by the government, not by Ford, and that the memo has "been taken totally out of context..."...Like Mike Wallace, other reporters found the Pinto matter a fascinating and eminently newsworthy upperworld scandal.
    • Cullen, Francis T.; Cavender, Gray; Maakestad, William J.; Benson, Michael L. (2014). Corporate Crime Under Attack: The Fight to Criminalize Business Violence. Routledge. pp. 166-167. ISBN 9781317523666. 

2015[edit]

  • About the time that the Grimshaw trial began, Mother Jones magazine held a press conference in which Ralph Nader and author Mark Dowie announced an article entitled "Pinto Madness" forthcoming in the September/October 1987 issue.
    • Rossow, Mark (2015). "Ethics: An Alternative Account of the Ford Pinto Case". Continuing Education and Development Inc.. 

External links[edit]

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