Posted: May 24th, 2022
Case Study Discussion & Executive Summary Objectives Identify ethical problems faced managers. Apply steps ethical moral decision-making address management issues. Use ethical perspectives make management decisions.
Ford Pinto case study discussion & executive summary
Managers must continually balance their own, personal sense of ethics with the need to render a company profitable. In the case of Ford, the pressure to create an affordable car resulted in the company making unethical decisions that hurt customers and also hurt Ford’s reputation and bottom line. While setting certain benchmarks of quality and cost are vitally important, Ford’s stubborn refusal to install a basic safety control device in the Pinto is an example of how a failure of diverse sources of information and unwillingness to deviate from the chosen path of an organization can result in folly.
Ethical and moral decision-making must be integrated into the managerial decision-making process. Just as Ford set benchmarks for the Pinto’s cost and its weight, it should also have set ethical objectives in terms of customer safety. As a company, rather than making safety one of its core values, it aggressively fought against government regulation that could have made the Pinto safer, as well as other vehicles on the road much safer. The excuse for this was that safety didn’t ‘sell’ and the average consumer was more concerned about cost than safety.
Ethical questions will arise in every company’s history. It is incumbent upon the corporate leaders to have an ethical mission statement to enable them to cope with such crises. Ford had no clear ethical belief system to guide it, other than the need to make a profit with its cars. That is why it literally put profits above people. On a personal level, Ford’s decision-making is abhorrent, and even more so because it persisted for so long. Ford’s lack of ethics consistently, and for many years, contributed to the deaths of thousands of people in a needless fashion, and the mechanism that could have prevented their deaths was voluntarily withheld, simply to make the car a bit more attractive in terms of its price. Modifications to the design of the car could have made the Pinto even safer, but it was feared that consumers would not like the reduced trunk capacity and, once again, make it difficult for the Pinto to compete in the marketplace.
Ford at the time was unable to see beyond a cold, calculated ‘cost-benefit’ analysis in terms of morality. Today, Ford defines its mission as: “One Team, One Plan,” and “One Goal” (One Ford vision and mission, 2012, Ford). In its explanation of its mission on its website, Ford states that part of the ‘one team’ refers to community satisfaction, although it is interesting that even the mission statement of the company today does not prioritize safety as one of Ford’s core values. It does offer community service opportunities for employees, and proudly states that it works within communities by cleaning up, donating food, and planting gardens (Volunteer corps, 2012, Ford). However, it is noteworthy that the Ford ‘volunteer corps’ does not tie directly to vehicle safety. Also, although the company has a sustainability initiative, there is no specific reference to consumer safety in its discussions of new, more environmentally-friendly vehicles (Sustainability report 2010/2011, 2012, Ford).
Of course, this does not mean that Ford’s current lines of vehicles are as unsafe as the notorious Pinto. Federal safety standards are far more stringent today than they were in the past. Rather, it is a confirmation that safety is still not much of a selling point for consumers. Even fuel-efficiency is better at selling cars, given there is some degree of consumer self-interest that is satisfied in a car’s environmentally-friendly status. However, the revulsion we all feel at the story of the Pinto indicates that on some level, we desire corporations to be ‘better than ourselves’ and to make decisions that are not wholly driven by the bottom line, even though consumers often make decisions against their own safety and self-interest in the name of cost. Given that corporations are fundamentally profit-driven entities, though, it would seem that ultimately government must step in to regulate aspects of corporate practice like safety and fuel-efficiency, given that market pressures will not change corporate or consumer behavior in these areas.
One Ford vision and mission. (2012). Ford. Retrieved:
Sustainability report 2010/2011. (2012). Ford. Retrieved:
Volunteer corps. (2012). Ford. Retrieved:
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