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Ford Pinto Case

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The Ford Pinto case effectively demonstrates the moral dilemma caused by the inherent cost/benefit analysis of the utilitarian calculation. One of the dangers associated with utilitarianism is the potential for abuse and abandoning the core principles and application of ethics. The definition of utilitarianism theorizes that an act is morally right if it promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of persons. In the Ford Pinto case, a standard utilitarian cost/benefit calculation was performed. The cost benefit analysis in the Ford Pinto case is derived from the utilitarian principle which takes into account the consequences of achieving maximum utility. Since utilitarian's are consequentialists who believe in promoting that which they value as good, through determining whether an action promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people, we can identify Ford's justification for the cost/benefit decision made. Ford determined costs of repairing the flawed design of rear fuel tanks at $11 per part. The total cost for repairing all Pinto's circulating was therefore determined at $137 million dollars to fix safety issues and decrease deaths and injuries. The benefit of fixing the safety issues were determined by Ford as $49.5 million which represented a figure derived by Ford of $200 thousand per death and $67 thousand dollars for injuries.

From Ford's perspective, it seems clear that the cost savings of not fixing the safety issues of the Pinto far outweigh the benefits of saving lives and reducing injuries, as visibly demonstrated in the cost difference between $137 million and $49.5 million. The key concept that Ford failed to take into consideration was the intrinsic value of human life beyond the cost(s) that may be associated with it. To put a value on human life is essentially flawed and therefore it is morally wrong as a standard monetary value can not possibly be assigned to all human life as a whole. The injuries and deaths sustained due to the exploding gas tanks resulted in numerous law suits against the Ford Corporation by victims as well as families of victims. In these court cases, it was determined by law that Ford was wrong in the conclusion of their cost/benefit analysis and in their decision not to proceed with safety measures to prevent additional deaths and injuries (Corporate Crime Under Attack: The Ford Pinto Case and Beyond 1987).

Given all of the evidence in the Ford Pinto case, it seems clear that the cost/benefit analysis performed by the Ford Corporation and the resulting decision not to undergo resolving safety issues does deviate from a properly conducted utilitarian calculation. Ford was more concerned with overall profits than the greater good of the majority of those involved, thus violating the basic rights and freedoms of life granted to every individual. The utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number does not support Ford's decision.



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