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What moral issues does the Pinto case raise?
The Pinto case shows that producing automobiles without thinking of the customer’s safety is hazardous and costly. The moral of the case is to mind the customers first before the monetary gain. If companies would balance the production capability and production (Covey, 1989) the end-result would be satisfying. In this case of Ford’s Pinto, the officials’ morality was focused on the monetary gained instead of the safety of their customers who buy products from them. As a result, Ford spent a lot more money fixing the effects of the bad product instead of fixing the product itself. Furthermore, Ford lost the trust of the customers since they get more involved in accidents and death of those who are driving their vehicle, the Pinto.
Suppose Ford officials were asked to justify their decision, what moral principles do you think they would invoke? Assess Ford’s handling of the Pinto from the perspective of each of the moral theories discussed in this chapter.
Ford officials would cite the principles of low-cost or cost-benefit analysis and affordable vehicles for the customers as the moral principle that could justify their decision. However, if they produced the automobiles with the production capability in mind and not focusing on the production itself plus their monetary gain, they would have gained more customers and earned more profit. Since doing it right the first time will not land them to court paying all the damages caused by their carelessness and bad decisions. Additionally, more lives will be saved and less problems to solve and to confront if Ford had thought and acted on the customers’ safety first.
Utilitarian would say that jeopardizing motorists does not itself make Ford’s action morally objectionable. The only morally relevant matter is whether Ford gave equal consideration to the interests of each consideration to the interests of each affected party. Do you think Ford did this?
I don’t believe Ford made any moral consideration on their action regarding the Pinto. They knew that Pinto “represented a serious fire hazard when struck from the rear” yet they still went on making them available for the public to use just to meet the timetable of producing a new vehicle. Jeopardizing motorists is morally objectionable at its finest and I don’t think Ford even think of any considerations for the affected party. They were only thinking of the monetary gain and the low-cost of production when producing their product. They were only thinking of not losing face and showing that they can produce a product in such time given to them to produce one. In so doing, safety and customer considerations were not included in their areas of concerns at the given time. Their concern was meeting the deadline by producing something.
Is cost-benefit analysis a legitimate tool? What role, if any, should it play in moral deliberation? Critically assess the example of cost-benefit analysis given in the case study. Is there anything unsatisfactory about it? Could it have been improved upon in some way?
Cost-benefit analysis can be a legitimate tool in such a way that safe vehicles can cost a lot of money. In any moral deliberation, it can mean expensive cars are safe or safe cars cost a lot of money. However, in the Pinto case, very few dollars are needed to make the vehicle safe enough for the customers but they refused to do it. It is totally unsatisfactory since Ford officials thought that assigning any dollar figure to any human being can keep them stay morally upright, which is not the case. Upon meeting the deadline of releasing a product, and knowing that such product is not totally safe, Ford officials should have fixed it by recalling the products and fixing them for the customers’ satisfaction and safety.
Speculate about Kant’s response to the idea of placing a monetary value on a human life. Is doing so ever morally legitimate?
No amount of money can replace a life of any human being. Therefore, no monetary value could ever be placed on any human life and it is not legitimate to ever think of doing so. If you, as a person of whatever position in the society, would think that the life of a human being can have monetary value then you are gravely mistaken. If you insist however, let me ask your value for your own life. Do you have any amount in your head for your own dear life? So, as automakers, it is very important that the safety of the customers be taken into higher consideration than any monetary gain that the company can have at the cost of many people’s lives.
What responsibilities to its customers do you think Ford had? What are the most important moral rights, if any, operating in the Pinto case?
Ford should have made it sure that customers are safe when using their products. Whatever inconveniences the customers have, Ford should see to it that it can be corrected or fixed to satisfy their customers.
In the Pinto case, the most important moral right is to think of other people’s life as you would think of your own life. Would you jeopardize your own life by buying the Pinto? Think of other’s safety as much as you want to be safe. If you were one of the officials of Ford, think as the customers would and play in your head the things that would happen to the customers if they use Pinto. What if one of your family members; wife, husband, son, daughter, or parents, happen to take a ride with a friend who is using Pinto and had an accident? What if such family member of yours burned to death as a result of your carelessness? Can you take that person’s life back? Make a decision with the end in mind.
Would it have made a moral difference if the savings resulting from not improving the Pinto gas tank had been passed on to Ford’s customers? Could a rational customer have chosen to save a few dollars and risk having the more dangerous gas tank? What if Ford had told potential customers about its decisions?
Giving the customers the money that was saved from improving the Pinto gas tank does not make a moral difference. What is rational and supposed to have been done by Ford was to fix the Pinto and made sure of its safety first before making it available to the consumers. Rational customers will not take the risk of saving a few dollars with the potential of losing one’s life while driving the vehicle. Moreover, if Ford told the potential customers about their decision, it would make them turn away and not bother to buy the Pinto at all.
The maxim of Ford’s action might be stated thus: “When it would cost more to make a safety improvement than not, it’s all right not to make it.” Can this maxim be universalized? Does it treat humans as ends in themselves? Would manufacturers be willing to abide by it if the positions were reversed and they were in the role of consumers?
I believe that the maxim of Ford’s action can possibly be universalized if automakers will think of monetary gain for the company’s advancement without thinking of the effect of such action. This maxim proves that Ford treats humans as end in themselves. If given a reversed situation, I believe manufacturers will see things clearly and sensibly if they put themselves in the shoes of the consumers. Perhaps they would make the vehicle as safe as can be if they thought of being customers themselves. Perhaps they did not allow selling the Pinto to the public if they only thought of driving it themselves.
Should Ford have been found guilty of criminal homicide in the Ulrich case?
In the Ulrich case in 1978, Ford should have been found guilty of criminal homicide for the death of the three teenagers. It is their mistake that they made such automobile available to the public even when it was found with ruptured tanks and dangerous leaks after its crash-test. If they corrected such problem with the gas tank location and made the vehicle safe for the customers to use, it wouldn’t have resulted to the death of the three teenagers. The gas tank exploded on impact resulted from the decision of Ford to disregard the problem with Pinto, thus causing the death of the teenagers. They should have paid for such decision. They should have paid for ending the lives of those people.
Was GM responsible for Shannon Moseley’s death? Compare that case with the case of Ford and the Pinto.
GM was responsible for the seventeen-year-old Shannon Moseley’s death. It is of the same scenario with the case of Ford and the Pinto, disregarding safety for monetary reasons. GM knew about the hazardous tanks, yet decided not to recall the products to save the expenses involved. It is still cost-benefit reasoning.
Assess Ford’s and GM’s actions with respect to SUV rollovers. Have the automakers met their moral obligation to consumers, or have they acted wrongly by not doing more to increase SUV safety? Should they be held either morally or legally responsible for deaths from rollovers that would not have occurred in other vehicles? What should automakers do to increase SUV safety?
Automakers are definitely legally and morally responsible for deaths from rollovers. However, they can correct their mistakes by increasing the safety of SUV. To do that, automakers should include rollover sensors and electronic stability systems available not as options but added to the system of the vehicle no matter what the cost will be. They can also improve the design to protect those who are using SUV. This will not only increase their profit due to the development of customers’ trust to their product but will also save them from paying damages and lawsuits.
Is it wrong for business to sell a product that is not as safe as it could be, given current technology? Is it wrong to sell a vehicle that is less safe than competing products on the market? Are there limits to how far automakers must go in the name of safety?
It is absolutely wrong to sell an unsafe product especially with the current technology. In the name of morality and in valuing human beings, automakers should do their best to keep their automobiles as safe as possible without thinking of monetary gain but of being responsible for other people.