Managing Product Safety: The Ford Pinto

Essay by regis2005A+, May 2006

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Around 1967 Ford Motor Company decided to design a small size car called the Ford Pinto. The automobile industry at the time (and still is) was highly competitive and very cyclical. In the late 1960's, America began to see the influences of foreign vehicles. Prior to that, cars were bigger and less fuel efficient, allowing the Japanese to gain substantial market share with the smaller, more economical vehicles, and the need to react to this pressure was even greater at Ford. Even though they held the number two spot in market share behind General Motors, they only held a 22.3% market share compared to General Motors at 46.4%, a very significant difference.

There was strong competition for Ford in the American small-car market from Volkswagen and several Japanese companies in the 1960's. In order for Ford to stay competitive and fight off competition, they rushed its newest car the Ford Pinto into production in much less time than is usually required to develop a car.

The regular time to produce an automobile was 43 months; Ford took only 38 months. Before production, the engineers at Ford discovered a major flaw in the cars' design. In nearly all rear-end crash test collisions the Pinto's fuel system would rupture extremely easily. Safety was not a major concern to Ford at the time of the development of the Pinto. Lee Iacocca, who was in charge of the development of the Pinto, had specifications for the design of the car that were uncompromising. These specifications were that "the Pinto was not to weigh an ounce over 2,000 pounds and not cost a cent over $2,000." (1) Any modifications even if they did provide extra safety for consumers that brought the car closer to the Iacocca's limits were rejected.

On August 9, 1977,