SYSK Live Back When Ford

SYSK Live: Back When Ford Pintos Were Flaming Deathtraps



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SYSK Live: Back When Ford Pintos Were Flaming Deathtraps

Personal Reaction to the Podcast 

The podcast focuses on Ford Motor Company, mainly for its controversial brand Ford Pinto which became the hottest-selling subcompacts in the 1970s (Apple Podcasts, 2018). The Ford Pinto model was Ford’s approach to the competition from Japan on compact cars. Ford designed a much cheaper and a little smaller car that would render the company more popular than its competitors (Hester & Adams, 2017). The company, therefore, ignored all the safety measures concerning the positioning of its Pinto’s gas tank, focusing on profits rather than public safety. As such, the podcast demonstrates the greed for profits present many businesses that compromise the quality of delivery provided they avoid extra costs as well as make profits. Personally, I believe that the approach by Ford Co. to ignore the apparent safety hazards revealed against its Pinto cars is unethical since the company management opted for profits over the risks the market would face owing to its Pinto’s model susceptibility to explosion after rear-end collisions. I was initially amazed by the fact that a famous company such as Ford would decide to release a product they knew would endanger the general public safety (Strother, 2018). As such, I believe that Ford’s approach to prefer possible out-of-court settlements on Pinto car crashes’ burn, injuries, and deaths over incurring additional redesign and production costs was the wrong approach. The fact that Ford was aware of the weaknesses in the Pinto’s fuel tank before being placed on the market renders the company more liable to the disastrous occurrences relating to its Pinto model. Furthermore, the award of $135 million in punitive damages to one of the cases against Pinto’s was a reasonable punishment to Ford for prioritizing profits over the safety of its clients (Hester & Adams, 2017). 

Lessons Learnt 

From Ford Pinto’s case study, it is apparent that ignorance of public safety by manufacturers such as Ford Company results in profound negative outcomes to both the company and its consumers. The company’s ignorance of specific product features can be very costly to the company in the long run. For instance, despite avoiding extra costs amounting to $113 million associated with delayed launch and car repairs, Ford Motor Co. was severely punished by the court with exceptionally high fines that exceeded what they would have made from the Pinto car sales (Strother, 2018). It is, therefore, clear that the law is ready and willing to inflict damage upon an unscrupulous company. Despite the reduction of damages awarded to Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co. from $135 million to $3.5 million, its message was apparent that companies could not neglect the lives of clients to save money (Hester & Adams, 2017). Furthermore, the recall and repair of Pinto cars that were sold between 1971 and 1978 demonstrated the fact that product liability is something that should not be trifled with, and the laws are ready to instigate hefty fines and settlements against companies that are unwilling to protect the lives of its customers. Furthermore, Ford experience a negative impact on its brand image when the public was informed of its unwillingness to spend $11 to protect its clients and their families. This shows that the company’s reluctance to ensure public safety does not only experience financial losses but also fatal impacts on its public image (Apple Podcasts, 2018). 

How to Ensure Corporations Prioritize Public Safety over Profits

Considering companies such as Ford Motor Company, public safety can be assured through a product life cycle that considers the delivery of value to customers (De George, 2017). As such, regulations by agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission should be mandated within corporations to ensure that their products protect the public against unreasonable risks. Imposing fatal consequences associated with violation of public safety standards is another important approach to ensuring that corporations prioritize public safety over profits. A company that is aware of the possible punishment they will encounter from endangering public safety will most likely ensure to produce risk-free products regardless of the overhead costs (De George, 2017). As such, producing pricey quality products that assure public safety will promote a brand image that ascertains quality and safety, and in the end, the company will retain its reputations while increasing sales. 


Apple Podcasts (2018). SYSK Live: Back when Ford Pintos were flaming deathtraps. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from

De George, R. T. (2017). Ethical Responsibilities of Engineers in Large Organizations: The Pinto Case. In Engineering Ethics (pp. 325-338). Routledge.

Hester, P. T., & Adams, K. M. (2017). Ford Pinto Case Study. In Systemic Decision Making (pp. 351-384). Springer, Cham.

Strother, S. (2018). When making money is more important than saving lives: Revisiting the Ford Pinto case. Journal of International & Interdisciplinary Business Research, 5(1), 166-181.