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Concept Relating to Ethics and Social Responsibility: Ford Pinto

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The design complied with the basic minimum that the government and legal standards required. The requirement at that time was that the tank needs to be in place only if the collision is at a speed of fewer than 20 miles per hour. Thus, at any speed over 20 miles per hour, the government did not a requirement for the tank to be intact. Third, the company’ s management was of the view that the car’ s design matched with the design of comparable cars produced by other manufacturers. The final reason pertains to the Utilitarian line of reasoning.

The company had conducted a cost-benefit analysis whereby it discovered that the cost of altering the gas tank would amount to $137 million whereas the benefit was only $49.15 million (Birsch & Fielder, 1994). This cost-benefit analysis has come under scrutiny in various works of literature. Firstly, it was rather erroneously assumed that the number of deaths caused by burns and the number of injuries caused by burns would be the same (Dowie, 1977). This is contrary to research which suggests that for each individual that dies from the fire in car accidents, the number of casualties caused by burnt hands, faces and other body parts is always greater (Birsch & Fielder, 1994).

The ratio assumed by Ford was 1:1, whereas, the ratio demonstrated by research is 10:1, a stark difference (Dowie, 1977). This has an impact on the company’ s calculations also since Ford assigned a value of $67,000 to burnt cases as opposed to $200,000 for the deaths (Birsch & Fielder, 1994). Another deceptive calculation was that of the $11 assigned to the cost of a device that prevents fire (Dowie, 1977).

The company’ s confidential document which was not exposed to the concerned authorities states that fire prevention could cost less than $11 per vehicle (Dowie, 1977). This is because of the “ heavy rubber bladder” that was invented by Goodyear and was already available in the market at a mere cost of $5.08 per bladder (Dowie, 1977). The purpose of this bladder was to prevent spillage of fuel in the event of rupture of the tank. The final line of reasoning is highly debatable.

In order to delineate the critical aspects of this reasoning, it is important to note what utilitarianism is. Utilitarianism ethics is based on the premise that an individual’ s course of action should be evaluated in terms of the costs and benefits that will be imposed on society as a result of those actions (Mill, 1963). Thus, according to the Utilitarian view, the correct course of action is one that maximizes the net benefit to society (Mill, 1963).  

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