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The Ford Pinto Case Study

The ford pinto case study has continued to be cited in business ethics long after the case. This case has brought to the fore the issue of ethics in engineers as opposed to the issue of corporate ethics. The question this brought about is: if a corporation is cutting corners on their production is it ethical for the engineers who are designing the said gadget to come forward and report the matter? Should they turn whistle blowers and maybe pay for their chivalry or should they just keep quiet and wait for the executive to make the decision on whether the dangers are acceptable or not? According to De George (1994) “the myth of engineers taking a role of the saints as whistle blowers is misplaced since people should not expect the engineers to be willing to sacrifice their lives even though they hold the safety of the public in their hands.”(pg179)

I think engineers as a profession which has an edge over the public should at all times be honest whether it is with the executive or the public in their dealing at the same time I think as De George put it the public should not expect them to jeopardize their work because of them.( De George, 1994, pg 179) In the Ford pinto case the prosecutor should have called on the engineers to testify since that was a place where they could talk about their misgivings without the fear of being subjected to unnecessary job cuts. De George is right in stating that this case raised the right issue at the wrong time. (De George, 1994, pg 180)

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In the Ford Pinto case I think the people who were liable for persecution for being reckless are the executive of the ford corporation and not its engineers since the internal documents which were later released by the Mother Jones issue of September/October 1977 clearly showed that the engineers told the management the risk involved in the Pinto engine tank. They also advised the executive on ways to minimize this risk which would have cost the management something between $5.08 to $ 11 which the management did not take into consideration since they wanted to produce the car with the cheapest way possible and the car had to cost not more than $2,000. The management figured that if they were to add the safety requirement made by the engineer their over head cost would go high hence leaving them with a smaller margin of profit than anticipated. The engineers, in this case, were torn between the corporation since they owe the corporation they work with allegiance although this does not exemplifier them from the responsibility that they have towards the public since they have a much more professional know-how than the public.

The engineer had a moral obligation to let the public know what they were buying, the safety of the cars they were using at the same time they did not have ethical mandate to go against the corporation they were working for. In both instance, the engineers did what they thought was best for them and their families since they did all they could possibly to do make the risk acceptable to the public while pleasing the executive. I think the Ford executive were the ones to blame for the deaths much more than the engineers who designed the Pinto model. The executive were much more inclined to put profit before safety since even after they were told that their vehicles were defective they still did not make the recall as required which lead to the death of the three girls in the inferno of Ford Pinto.


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