Mon . 19 Apr 2019

Ford Pinto

ford pinto, ford pinto for sale
The Ford Pinto is a front-engine, rear-drive subcompact car manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company for model years 1971–1980 The first subcompact developed by Ford in North America, the Pinto was marketed in two-door coupe 1971–1972, three-door hatchback 1971–1980, and three-door station wagon 1972–1980 body styles, and was the first mass-produced American car with rack and pinion steering

Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division marketed a rebadged variant of the Pinto as the Mercury Bobcat for model years 1975–1980 1974–1980 in Canada5 The Pinto and Bobcat were manufactured at Edison Assembly, StThomas Assembly and San Jose Assembly6 Over 3 million vehicles were produced during its 10 years of production In model year 1980, the Pinto was replaced by the front-drive Ford Escort

Beginning in 1977, controversy arose surrounding the Pinto's fuel tank design, which was linked with an increased risk of deadly fires after rear-end collisions The issue gained media attention after it became public that Ford knew about but did not fix the issue The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ultimately ordered a recall, and a design modification was made to reduce the risk of fire The fires resulted in a number of legal cases including two landmark cases, Grimshaw vs Ford Motor Company and State of Indiana vs Ford Motor Company A subsequent analysis of the Pinto's overall safety indicated its safety was comparable to other cars of its class The Pinto has been cited widely as a business ethics as well as tort reform case study


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Product development
  • 3 Production history
    • 31 1971–1973
    • 32 1974–1978
    • 33 Mercury Bobcat 1974–1980
    • 34 1979–1980
  • 4 Powertrain
  • 5 Reception and criticism
  • 6 Fuel system fires, recalls, and litigation
    • 61 Fuel system design
    • 62 Cost-benefit analysis, the Pinto Memo
    • 63 NHTSA investigation
    • 64 Recall
    • 65 Legal cases
      • 651 Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co
      • 652 State of Indiana vs Ford Motor Company
    • 66 Subsequent analysis
  • 7 Gallery
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Notes
  • 10 Bibliography
  • 11 External links


First-generation American sub compacts, left to right: AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega

American automakers had first countered imports such as the Volkswagen Beetle with compact cars including the Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Corvair and Plymouth Valiant, although these cars featured six-cylinder engines and comprised a larger vehicle class As the popularity of smaller Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun increased throughout the 1960s, Ford North America responded by introducing the Ford Cortina from its European arm Ford of Europe as a captive import American automakers would soon introduce their own subcompacts7

Named after the Pinto horse or pony8 was introduced on September 11, 1970 The AMC Gremlin was the first to arrive on the market six months before the Pinto, and the Chevrolet Vega was introduced the day before the Pinto Both the Pinto and the Vega were completely new, with the Pinto utilizing power trains already in use across Europe in the European market spec European Ford Escort, while Chevrolet introduced an innovative aluminum engine for the Vega in its base trim The Gremlin, AMC's competitor in the segment, stood out as it was designed around large six and eight-cylinder engines, and was created by a shortened chassis derived from the compact-class AMC Hornet's underpinnings Ford chairman Henry Ford II himself had a 1971 Runabout hatchback model as one of his personal cars9

Product development

Initial planning for the Pinto began in the summer of 1967, was recommended by Ford's Product Planning Committee in December 1968, and was approved by Ford's Board of Directors in January 196910 Ford President Lee Iacocca wanted a 1971 model that weighed under 2,000 pounds and that would be priced at less than $2,000 The Pinto product development, from conception through delivery, was completed in 25 months, when the automotive industry average was 43 months; the Pinto project was the shortest production planning schedule in automotive history up to that time Some development processes usually conducted sequentially were conducted in parallel Machine tooling overlapped with product development, which froze the basic design Decisions which threatened the schedule were discouraged111213 The attitude of Ford management was to develop the Pinto as quickly as possible14 Iacocca ordered a rush project to build the car, and the Pinto became known internally as "Lee's car"15 The Pinto's bodywork was styled by Robert Eidschun1

Offered with an inline-4 engine and bucket seats the Pinto's mechanical design was conventional, with unibody construction, a longitudinally mounted engine in front driving the rear wheels through either a manual or automatic transmission and live axle rear end Suspension was by unequal-length control arms with front coil springs; the live rear axle was suspended on leaf springs The rack and pinion steering had optional power assist, as did the brakes16

Production history

On September 11, 1970, Ford introduced the Pinto under the tagline The Little Carefree Car17

After structural design on alternate body styles encountered obstacles,18 Ford offered the Pinto solely as a two-door sedan, with entry level models priced at $1850, undercutting GM's Chevrolet Vega and directly targeting imported models — which included such new competitors as the Mazda 1200 in 1971, the Subaru DL in 1972, and the Honda Civic in 197319

By January 1971, the Pinto had sold over 100,000 units20 and 352,402 for the entire 1971 production run 1974 saw the most Pintos produced in a single model year, with 544,209 units21


1973 Pinto Runabout, noting view of rear hatch

The Ford Pinto went on sale on September 11, 1970 in one bodystyle, a fastback sedan with trunk and metal trunklid A hatchback became available on February 20, 1971, debuting at the Chicago Auto Show18 In 1971, the Pinto brochure came with a paper cutout Pinto that one could fold to make a 3D model2 Marketed as the Runabout, the hatchback went on sale five days later, priced at $2,06218 The hatch itself featured exposed chrome hinges for the liftgate and five decorative chrome strips, pneumatic struts to assist in opening the hatch, a rear window approximately as large as the sedan's, and a fold down seat — a feature which became simultaneously an option on the sedan The hatchback model matched the sedan in all other dimensions and offered 381 cubic feet 108 m3 of cargo space with its seat folded18 By 1972, Ford redesigned the hatch itself, with the glass portion of the hatch enlarged to almost the entire size of the hatch itself, ultimately to be replaced with a rear hatch that was entirely glass

On October 30, 1970, less than two months after introduction, 26,000 Pintos were recalled to address a possible problem with the accelerator sticking on once engaged at more than halfway222324 On March 29, 1971, Ford recalled 220,000 Pintos, all Pintos manufactured prior to March 19, 1971, to address a possible problem with fuel vapors in the engine air filter igniting by a backfire through the carburetor252627

On February 24, 1972,18 the Pinto station wagon debuted with an overall length of 1727 in 4,390 mm and 605 cubic feet 171 m3 of cargo volume18 The first 2-door Ford station wagon since 1961, the Pinto wagon was equipped with flip-open rear quarter windows Along with front disc brakes, the 20L engine was standard equipment A Pinto Squire wagon featured faux wood side paneling similar to the full-size Country Squire28


1977 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon

In 1974, to meet federal regulations, 5 mph bumpers were added to both the front and rear Unlike the majority of 1970s cars, the addition of larger bumpers to the Pinto would not necessitate major changes to the bodywork While the underpowered Kent engine was dropped, the optional OHC engine was expanded to 23L In various forms, this engine would go on to power a variety of Ford vehicles for 23 years In 1974, Mercury began selling the Bobcat as a Canada-only model With 544,209 units sold, 1974 would be the most popular model year for the Pinto21

In 1975, in a move to better compete with the AMC Gremlin, Ford introduced the 28L V6; while far less powerful than the Gremlin, the V6 gave the Pinto a feature unavailable in the Chevrolet Vega Sales of the Mercury Bobcat are expanded to Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the United States; it is sold as a hatchback and wagon29

For the 1977 model year, Pinto wagons received a new option package Dubbed the Pinto Cruising Wagon, it was the sedan delivery version of the Pinto styled to resemble a small conversion van, complete with round side panel "bubble windows"30

Other appearance packages offered by Ford were similar to the Cosworth Vega and the 304 V8 Gremlin X; these were strictly appearance upgrades, not a factory performance package30

In 1978, the Pinto became the second-smallest Ford sold in the US, as the company introduced the Fiesta Nearly two feet shorter than the Pinto, the German-designed Fiesta was the first front-wheel drive car sold by Ford in the USA31

Mercury Bobcat 1974–1980

Mercury Bobcat

Lincoln-Mercury dealers marketed a rebadged variant of the Pinto, as the Mercury Bobcat, beginning with model year 1974 in Canada and 1975 in the United States The Bobcat was marketed as a hatchback and as a station wagon, under the Villager nameplate, and both featured a modified grille The hatchback featured modified tail lights In total, 224,026 Bobcats were produced from 1975 to 198032


1979–1980 Ford Pinto coupe

For the 1979 model year, the Pinto saw its first significant styling update Taking on square headlights, the Pinto shed its styling borrowed from the Maverick Wearing larger taillights, the Pinto now wore a square, sloping grille33

1980 marked the end of the Pinto's production run For 1980, the V6 engine was discontinued, leaving the 23L as the sole engine3435

Calendar year 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980
Units 352,402 480,405 484,512 544,209 223,763 290,132 225,097 188,899 199,018 185,054
Total production 3,173,491


Except for 1980, the Pinto was available with a choice of two engines For the first five years of production, only four-cylinder inline engines were offered Ford changed the power ratings almost every year36

In 1974, the 23 litres 140 cu in OHC I4 engine was introduced This engine would be updated and modified several times, allowing it to remain in production into 1997 Among other Ford vehicles, a turbocharged version of this engine would later power the performance based Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, Mustang SVO, and the European-built Merkur XR4Ti36

Initial Pinto deliveries in the early years used the English 1,600 cc 98 cu in and German 2,000 cc 120 cu in engines tuned for performance see below The 2,000 cc engine used a two barrel carburetor where just one bore was bigger than that used on the Maverick With the low weight not much above 2,000 lb 910 kg and the SOHC engine it rated a 108 second 0–60 time With the advent of emission control requirements, Ford moved from the European sourced to domestically sourced engines, using new or modified designs New safety legislation impacted bumpers and other parts adding to the weight of the car, reducing performance Revised SAE standards in 1972 dropped the Pinto's 16 l 98 cu in engine to 54 bhp 40 kW — and the 20 l 120 cu in engine to 86 hp 64 kW37

Engine name Years available Displacement Horsepower† Torque†
Inline-four engine
Ford Kent I4 1971–1973 98 cu in 16 L
  • 75 hp 56 kW; 76 PS 1971
  • 54 hp 40 kW; 55 PS 1972–1973
  • 96 lb·ft 130 N·m 1971
Ford EAO I4 1971–1974 122 cu in 20 L
  • 100 hp 75 kW; 101 PS 1971
  • 86 hp 64 kW; 87 PS 1972–1974
Ford OHC I4 1974–1980 140 cu in 23 L
  • 90 hp 67 kW; 91 PS 1974
  • 83 hp 62 kW; 84 PS 1975
  • 92 hp 69 kW; 93 PS 1976
  • 89 hp 66 kW; 90 PS 1977
  • 88 hp 66 kW; 89 PS 1978–1980
  • 121 lb·ft 164 N·m 1976
  • 120 lb·ft 160 N·m 1977
  • 118 lb·ft 160 N·m 1978–1979
  • 119 lb·ft 161 N·m 1980
V6 engine
Ford Cologne V6 1975–1979 170 cu in 28 L
  • 97 hp 72 kW; 98 PS 1975
  • 103 hp 77 kW; 104 PS 1976
  • 93 hp 69 kW; 94 PS 1977
  • 90 hp 67 kW; 91 PS 1978
  • 102 hp 76 kW; 103 PS 1979
  • 149 lb·ft 202 N·m 1976
  • 140 lb·ft 190 N·m 1977
  • 143 lb·ft 194 N·m 1978
  • 138 lb·ft 187 N·m 1979
†Horsepower and torque ratings are net output after 1971 model year

Reception and criticism

Upon release the Pinto was received with both positive and negative reviews Road & Track faulted the suspension and standard drum brakes, calling the latter a "serious deficiency," but praised the proven 16 L Kent engine, adapted from European Fords The larger 2300 inline-4 found in the Chevrolet Vega was an innovative, brand new design using an aluminum alloy block and iron head, but needed more development work as initially released Super Stock Magazine found the fit and finish to be "superior" and were impressed with the car overall16 Car and Driver found the Pinto, when equipped with the larger 20L engine and front disc brakes, to be a nimble and powerful commuter car with good visibility and sports-car feel38 A review of the 1974 Pinto with an automatic transmission by Car and Driver was not as favorable noting significant decreases in mileage and acceleration39

The controversy surrounding the Pinto has resulted in inclusion in retrospective automotive lists In 2004, Forbes included the Pinto among its fourteen Worst Cars of All Time, saying "When people talk about how bad American small cars created an opportunity for the Japanese to come in and clean house in the 1970s and '80s, they are referring to vehicles like this"40 In 2008, Time magazine included the Pinto in The Fifty Worst Cars of All Time, citing the Pinto's "rather volatile nature The car tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions"41

Fuel system fires, recalls, and litigation

The safety of the design of the Pinto's fuel system led to critical incidents and subsequently resulted in a recall, lawsuits, a criminal prosecution, and public controversy The events surrounding the controversy have been described both as a "landmark narrative"42 and mythical43 The Ford Pinto has been cited and debated in numerous business ethics4445 as well as tort reform4647 case studies

The placement of the car's fuel tank was the result of both conservative industry practice of the time as well the uncertain regulatory environment during the development and early sales periods of the car Ford was accused of knowing the car had an unsafe tank placement then forgoing design changes based on an internal cost benefit analysis Two landmark legal cases, Grimshaw vs Ford and State of Indiana vs Ford resulted from fatal accidents involving Pintos48

Scholarly work published in the decades after the Pinto's release have examined the cases and offered summations of the general understanding of the Pinto and the controversy regarding the car's safety performance and risk of fire These works also reviewed misunderstandings related to the actual number of fire related deaths related to the fuel system design, "wild and unsupported claims asserted in Pinto Madness and elsewhere",49 the facts of the related legal cases, Grimshaw vs Ford Motor Company and State of Indiana vs Ford Motor Company, the applicable safety standards at the time of design, and the nature of the NHTSA investigations and subsequent vehicle recalls50

Fuel system design

The design of the Pinto fuel system was complicated by the uncertain regulatory environment during the development period The first federal standard for automotive fuel system safety, passed in 1967, known as Section 301 in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, initially only considered front impacts In January 1969, 18 months into the Pinto's development cycle, the NHTSA proposed expanding the standard to cover rear-end collisions The proposed standard was based on a 20 mph moving-barrier rear impact test Ford publicly announced it supported the standard In August 1970, the month the Pinto went into production, the NHTSA changed the proposal to a more stringent 20 mph fixed-barrier standard which car companies were to meet in 18 months The fixed-barrier standard was seen by the auto industry as a significant increase in test severity At the same time the NHTSA announced a long-term goal of setting a 30-mph fixed-barrier standard5152 Due to the confusion related to the various proposed standards and an expectation that the NHTSA would not select the more stringent 30 mph fixed-barrier standard, Ford elected to voluntarily meet the 20 mph moving-barrier standard for all cars by 19735354 Ford and other automobile manufacturers objected to the more stringent fuel system safety standard and filed objections during the required comment periods of the proposed regulations55

The Pinto's design positioned its fuel tank between the rear axle and the rear bumper, a standard practice in US subcompact cars at the time56 The Pinto's vulnerability to fuel leakage and fire in a rear-end collision was exacerbated by reduced rear "crush space", a lack of structural reinforcement in the rear, and an "essentially ornamental" rear bumper though similar to other manufacturers57 Crash testing, conducted in 1970 with modified Ford Mavericks, as part of a response to NHTSA proposed regulations, demonstrated vulnerability at fairly low crash speeds Design changes were made, but post launch tests showed similar results58 These tests were conducted to develop crash testing standards rather than specifically investigating fuel system integrity Though Ford engineers were not pleased with the car's performance, no reports of the time indicate particular concern59 Ford also tested several different vehicle modifications which could improve rear impact performance60 However, the engineer's occupational caution and aversion to "unproven" solutions as well as a view that the crash test results were inconclusive resulted in the use of a conventional fuel tank design and placement6162 The use of an above the axle tank location was considered safer by some but not all at Ford This placement was not a viable option for the hatchback and station wagon body styles63

Beginning in 1973, field reports of Ford Pintos consumed by fire after low-speed rear-end collisions were received by Ford's recall coordinator office64 Based on standard procedures used to evaluate field reports, Ford's internal recall evaluation group twice reviewed the field data and found no actionable issue65

Cost-benefit analysis, the Pinto Memo

In 1973, Ford's Environmental and Safety Engineering division developed a cost-benefit analysis entitled Fatalities Associated with Crash Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires for submission to the NHTSA in support of Ford's objection to proposed stronger fuel system regulation66 The document became known as the "Pinto Memo" Cost-benefit analysis was one tool used in the evaluation of safety design decisions accepted by the industry and the NHTSA67 The analysis compared the cost of repairs to the societal costs for injuries and deaths related to fires in cases of vehicle rollovers for all cars sold in the US by all manufacturers The values assigned to serious burn injuries and loss of life were based on values calculated by NHTSA in 197268 In the memo Ford estimated the cost of fuel system modifications to reduce fire risks in rollover events to be $11 per car across 125 million cars and light trucks all manufacturers, for a total of $137 million The design changes were estimated to save 180 burn deaths and 180 serious injuries per year, a cost to society of $495 million

In August 1977, having been provided with a copy of the memo by Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co plaintiffs before trial,6970 Mark Dowie's investigative article "Pinto Madness," published in Mother Jones magazine, emphasized the emotional aspects of the Grush-Saundy memo and implied Ford was callously trading lives for profits71 The Mother Jones article also erroneously claimed that somewhere between 500 and 900 persons had been killed in fires attributed to the Pinto's unique design features72

The public understanding of the cost-benefit analysis has contributed to the mythology of the Ford Pinto case Time magazine said the memo was one of the automotive industry's "most notorious paper trails"41 A common misconception is that the document considered Ford's tort liability costs rather than the generalized cost to society and applied to the annual sales of all passenger cars, not just Ford vehicles The general misunderstanding of the document, as presented by Mother Jones, gave it an operational significance it never had7374

NHTSA investigation

In April 1974, the Center for Auto Safety petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA to recall Ford Pintos to address fuel system design defects after reports from attorneys of three deaths and four serious injuries in rear-end collisions at moderate speeds7576 The NHTSA found there was not enough evidence to warrant a defect investigation7577 In August 1977, Dowie's "Pinto Madness" article was published a series of accusations against Ford, the Pinto and the NHTSA These included that Ford knew the Pinto was a "firetrap," and said that Ford did not implement design changes because Ford's cost-benefit analysis document showed that paying out millions in damages in lawsuits was more profitable than the design changes78 The day after the article's release consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the author of the Mother Jones article held a news conference in Washington DC on the alleged dangers of the Pinto's design79 On the same day, Nader and the Center for Auto Safety re-submitted their petition to the NHTSA80

UCLA law professor Gary T Schwartz in a Rutgers Law Review article said the NHTSA investigation of the Pinto was in response to consumer complaints and noted the Mother Jones article included a clip out "coupon" that readers could mail to the NHTSA81 Lee and Ermann note that the Mother Jones labeling of the Pinto as a "firetrap" and accusations that the NHTSA was buckling to industry pressure as well as the public interest created by sensationalized new stories "forced a second Pinto investigation and guaranteed that the NHTSA would be under the microscope for its duration"82

On August 11, 1977, the day after the Nader and Mother Jones press conference, the NHTSA initiated an investigation83 On May 8, 1978, the NHTSA informed Ford of their determination that the Pinto fuel system was defective84 The NHTSA concluded:

1971–1976 Ford Pintos have experienced moderate speed, rear-end collisions that have resulted in fuel tank damage, fuel leakage, and fire occurrences that have resulted in fatalities and non-fatal burn injuries  The fuel tank design and structural characteristics of the 1975–1976 Mercury Bobcat which render it identical to contemporary Pinto vehicles, also render it subject to like consequences in rear impact collisions8586

NHTSA scheduled a public hearing for June 1978, and NHTSA negotiated with Ford on the recall87

Lee and Ermann noted that NHTSA used a worst case test to justify the recall of the Pinto, rather than the regular 1977 rear impact crash test A large "bullet car" was used instead of a standard moving barrier Weights were placed in the nose of the car to help it slide under the Pinto and maximize gas tank contact The vehicle headlights were turned on to provide a possible ignition source The fuel tank was completely filled with gasoline rather than partially filled with non-flammable Stoddard fluid as was the normal test procedure In a later interview the NHTSA engineer was asked why the NHTSA forced a Pinto recall for failing a 35 mph test given that most small cars of the time would not have passed "Just because your friends get away with shoplifting, doesn't mean you should get away with it too"8889

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA ultimately directed Ford to recall the Pinto Initially, the NHTSA did not feel there was sufficient evidence to demand a recall due to incidents of fire The NHTSA investigation found that 27 deaths were found to have occurred between 1970 and mid-1977 in rear-impact crashes that resulted in fire The NHTSA did not indicate if these impacts would have been survivable absent fire or if the impacts were more severe than even a state of the art for 1977 fuel system could have withstood90 In their analysis of the social factors affecting the NHTSA's actions, Lee and Ermann note that 27 is the same number of deaths attributed to a Pinto transmission problem which contributed to collisions after the affected cars stalled91 They also note that the NHTSA had two primary incentives in proving a defect existed in the Pinto's fuel system design The administration was pressured by safety advocates Center for Auto Safety as well as the public respose It was also being forced into action due to the ways in which both the courts and executive branch were limiting the ability of the NHTSA to address systematic auto safety issues92


Though Ford could have proceeded with the formal recall hearing, fearing additional damage to the company's public reputation the company agreed to a "voluntary recall" program93 On June 9, 1978, days before the NHTSA was to issue Ford a formal recall order, Ford recalled 15 million Ford Pintos and Mercury Bobcats, the largest recall in automotive history at the time94 Ford disagreed with the NHTSA finding of defect, and said the recall was to "end public concern that has resulted from criticism of the fuel systems in these vehicles"95 The Ford recall place polyethylene shield between the tank and likely causes of puncture, lengthened the filler tube, and improved tank filler seal in the event of collision96

Legal cases

Approximately 117 lawsuits were brought against Ford in connection with rear-end accidents in the Pinto97 The two most significant cases were Grimshaw vs Ford Motor Company and State of Indiana vs Ford Motor Company98

Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co

Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co, decided in February 1978, is one of two important Pinto cases99 A 1972 Pinto driven by Lily Gray stalled in the center lane of a California freeway The car was struck from behind by a vehicle initially traveling at 50 mph and impacted at an estimated between 30 and 50 mph resulting in a fuel tank fire100 Gray died at the time of the impact The passenger, Richard Grimshaw, was seriously burned101102 The plaintiff's bar collaborated with Mother Jones and The Center for Auto Safety to publicize damning information about Ford prior to trial69103 The jury awarded $1278 million in total damages; $125 million in punitive damages and $2,841,000 in compensatory damages to passenger Richard Grimshaw and $665,000 in compensatory damages to the family of the deceased driver, Lily Gray The jury award was said to be the largest ever in US product liability and personal injury cases104 The jury award was the largest against an automaker at the time105 The judge reduced the jury's punitive damages award to $35 million, which he later said was "still larger than any other punitive damage award in the state by a factor of about five"106 Ford subsequently decided to settle related cases out of court107

Reaction to the Grimshaw was mixed According to the Los Angeles Times in 2010, the award "signaled to the auto industry that it would be harshly sanctioned for ignoring known defects"108 The case has been held up as an example of the disconnect between the use of corporate risk analysis and the tendency of juries to be offended by such analyses109 The case is also cited as an example of irrational punitive damage awards110 While supporting the finding of liability, Schwartz notes that the punitive damage award is hard to justify111112

State of Indiana vs Ford Motor Company

On August 10, 1978 three teenage girls of the Urlich family of Osceola, Indiana were killed when the 1973 Pinto they were in was involved in a rear-end collision The driver had stopped in the road to retrieve the car's gas cap which had been inadvertently left on the top of the car and subsequently fell onto the road While stopped the Pinto was struck by a Chevrolet van113 Ford sent the Urlichs a recall notice for the Pinto in 1979 A grand jury indicted Ford on three counts of reckless homicide Indiana v Ford was a landmark in product liability law as the first time a corporation faced criminal charges for a defective product, and the first time a corporation was charged with murder114 If convicted, Ford faced a maximum fine of $30,000 under Indiana's 1978 reckless homicide statute115 Ford's legal defense was vastly more ambitious than the effort mounted in the Grimshaw case116 The effort was led by James F Neal with a staff of 80 and a budget of about $1 million; the Elkhart County state's attorney had a budget of about $20,000 and volunteer law professors and law students117 A former head of the NHTSA, testifying on Ford's behalf, said the Pinto's design was no more or less safe than that of any other car in its class118 In 1980 Ford was found not guilty115 In 1980 a civil suit was settled for $7500 to each plaintiff119

According to Automotive News in 2003, the indictment was a low point in Ford's reputation120 Some saw the suit as a landmark for taking a corporation to task for their actions while others saw the case as frivolous121122 In 2002 Malcolm Wheeler, a lawyer working with the Ford defense team, noted that the case was a poor application of criminal law123 The case also impacted how Ford handled future product liability cases both legally and in the press124

Subsequent analysis

The recall was included in Time magazine's 2009 top ten product recalls, Popular Mechanics magazine's 2010 five most notorious recalls of all time, and NBC News' 2013 twelve famous recalls125126127 Time said "The Ford Pinto was a famously bad automobile, but worse still might be Ford's handling of the safety concerns"126 According to the Los Angeles Times in 2010, the award "signaled to the auto industry that it would be harshly sanctioned for ignoring known defects"108

UCLA law professor Gary T Schwartz, in a Rutgers Law Review article see Section 73 NHTSA Investigation above, studied the fatality rates of the Pinto and several other small cars of the time period He noted that fires, and rear-end fires in particular, are very small portion of overall auto fatalities At the time only 1% of automobile crashes would result in fire and only 4% of fatal accidents involved fire, and only 15% of fatal fire crashes are the result of rear-end collisions128 When considering the overall safety of the Pinto, Schwartz notes that subcompact cars as a class have generally higher fatality risk Pintos represented 19% of all cars on the road in the 1975–76 period During that time the car represented 19% of all "fatal accidents accompanied by some fire" Implying the car was average for all cars and slightly above average for its class129 When all types of fatalities are considered the Pinto was approximately even with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun 510 It was significantly better than the Datsun 1200/210, Toyota Corolla and VW Beetle128 The safety record of the car in terms of fire was average or slightly below average for compacts and all cars respectively This was considered respectable for a subcompact car Only when considering the narrow subset of rear-impact, fire fatalities is the car somewhat worse than the average for subcompact cars While acknowledging this is an important legal point, Schwartz rejects the portrayal of the car as a firetrap130


See also

  • 60 Minutes: "Unintended acceleration"
  • AVE Mizar – a flying Pinto
  • Dateline NBC: "General Motors v NBC"


  1. ^ a b Joseph, Damian October 30, 2009 "Ugliest Cars of the Past 50 Years" Bloomberg Businessweek Retrieved March 6, 2016 The Pinto doesn't seem so bad—that is, until you remember how sexy Fords from the 1960s were The design devolved into hexagonal headlight housings, a grille that's only a few inches tall yet wide enough to become the car's focal point, and a rear end that apparently melted from the roof 
  2. ^ a b c "Directory Index: Ford 1971 Pinto Brochure" Oldcarbrochurescom Retrieved December 3, 2011 
  3. ^ "Carfolio 1970 Pinto" 
  4. ^ "Ford Pinto" Automobile-catalogcom 
  5. ^ Mays, James C Ford and Canada: 100 Years Together Montréal: Syam Publishing, 2003 p116
  6. ^ Smith, Charles March 25, 2006 "Lofty ambition / Developer revs up former Ford factory in Richmond for real live-work spaces" The San Francisco Chronicle 
  7. ^ SHEREFKIN, ROBERT June 17, 2003 "Ford 100: Defective Pinto almost took Ford's reputation with it Read more: http://autoweekcom/article/car-news/ford-100-defective-pinto-almost-took-fords-reputation-it#ixzz4wdHFnN3Y" Autoweek Retrieved October 26, 2017  External link in |title= help
  8. ^ "Why Ford keeps using horse names for cars" Jennings Ford Direct Retrieved October 26, 2017 
  9. ^ Lewis 2003 pages 262–231
  10. ^ Danley 2005: Initial planning on the Pinto, a second-generation subcompact, began in 1967  In January 1969, in a victory for Iaccoca, Ford's Board approved the recommendation of the Product Planning Committee December 1968 to produce the Pinto
  11. ^ Gioia 1992: The Pinto was brought from inception to production in the record time of approximately 25 months compared to the industry average of 43 months, a time frame that suggested the necessity for doing things expediently In addition to the time pressure, the engineering and development teams were required to adhere to the production "limits of 2000" for the diminutive car: it was not to exceed either $2000 in cost or 2000 pounds in weight Any decisions that threatened these targets or the timing of the car's introduction were discouraged Under normal conditions design, styling, product planning, engineering, etc, were completed prior to production tooling Because of the foreshortened time frame, however, some of these usually sequential processes were executed in parallel As a consequence, tooling was already well under way thus "freezing" the basic design 
  12. ^ Helms, Marilyn M; Hutchins, Betty A 1992 "Poor quality products: Is their production unethical" Management Decision 30 5: 35 doi:101108/00251749210015661 When a decision was made to produce the Pinto, it was given the shortest production planning schedule in history Tooling went on at the same time as product development so, when testing revealed a serious defect with the gas tank, the $200 million Pinto tooling machines were almost completely built The directive came from the top, President Lee Iacocca, who emphasized that the Pinto was not to weigh an ounce over 2,000lb and not cost a cent over $2,000 and that safety was not a priority, because "safety doesn't sell" 
  13. ^ Wojdyla 2011: The genesis of the Ford Pinto came sometime in 1968, when Ford's then-president Lee Iaccoca decided that his company would not sit idly by as new Japanese competitors dominated the small-car segment He pushed the board to greenlight the Pinto program, and by August 1968 the program was underway It would have aggressive targets: no more than 2000 pounds, not a penny over $2000 and a delivery deadline of just 25 months, a record at the time and still impressive today
  14. ^ Wojdyla 2011: But at the time, management's attitude was to get the product out the door as fast as possible
  15. ^ Sherefkin 2003: Iacocca ordered a rush program to build the Pinto  The Pinto quickly became known as "Lee's car" He demanded that it weigh no more than 2,000 pounds and sell for $2,000  Iacocca was in a hurry He wanted the car in showrooms for the 1971 model year That meant one of the shortest production planning periods in modern automotive history: just 25 months, when the normal time span was 43 months That also meant that the Pinto's tooling was developed at the same time as product development
  16. ^ a b "Pinto 2000 Coupe" Super Stock Magazine December 1970 Retrieved April 29, 2016 
  17. ^ "The Little Carefree Car" Milwaukee Sentinel September 18, 1970 p 5 Retrieved March 5, 2016 
  18. ^ a b c d e f "Birth of the Ford Pinto" Howstuffworkscom 
  19. ^ "Quart in a Pinto" The Motor Vol 3558 August 26, 1970 pp 26–27 
  20. ^ "1971-1980 Ford Pinto" HowStuffWorkscom 
  21. ^ a b Standard Catalog of Ford, 4th Edition, 2007, by John Gunnell Krause Publications
  22. ^ Jones 1978: Soon after the Pinto was introduced, 26,000 were recalled because accelerators were sticking
  23. ^ "Ford Recalls 26,000 Pinto Cars" Chicago Tribune October 31, 1970 Retrieved March 6, 2016 Ford Motor Co announced today it is recalling 26,000 early production models of its 1971 Pinto equipped with the 1600 cubic centimeter engine because of an accelerator problem  The company found that when the throttle is opened more than half way, it is possible that it may not always return to the closed position when pressure on the accelerator pedal is removed 
  24. ^ Associated Press 1971: For many of the motorists, it's the second time around  Last October Ford recalled some 26,000 Pintos because of complaints about accelerator pedals sticking when the throttle was opened more than halfway
  25. ^ Jones 1978: 220,000 Pintos were recalled for modifications to prevent possible engine compartment fires
  26. ^ Mateja, James March 30, 1971 "Ford Recalls 204,000 Pintos to Prevent Fuel Vapor Fires" Chicago Tribune Ford Motor Co will recall about 204,000 subcompact 1971 Pintos for modification to prevent possible ignition of fuel vapors in the engine air cleaner, it announced yesterday A Ford Spokesman declined to give the cost of the recall, but all Pintos produced thru March 19, including 204,000 in the United States, 13,000 in Canada and 2,500 overseas, are involved in the program  Ford said its investigation of complaints revealed that the possibility of a fire existed because the vapors in the air cleaner could be ignited by a backfire thru the carburetor  |access-date= requires |url= help
  27. ^ Associated Press 1971: About 165,000 American owners of Ford's new Pinto are affected by the automaker's announcement that virtually all the mini-cars are being recalled for an engine defect
  28. ^ Pawel Zal ed "1972 Ford USA Pinto Station Wagon" automobile-catalogcom Retrieved October 26, 2017 
  29. ^ Lewis 2003 pages 286-290
  30. ^ a b Lewis 2003 pages 289-303
  31. ^ Lewis 2003 pages 304-309
  32. ^ Flory, J Kelly, Jr 2013 American Cars, 1973–1980: Every Model, Year by Year Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company ISBN 978-0-7864-4352-9 
  33. ^ Lewis 2003 pages 310-315
  34. ^ Lamm, Michael August 1974 "PM Owners Report: Ford Pinto" Popular Mechanics Popular Mechanics Magazine 
  35. ^ "The Ford Pinto" 
  36. ^ a b Gunnell, John A; Lenzke, James T 1995 Standard Catalog of Ford Cars, 1903–1990 Krause Publications ISBN 0-87341-140-4 
  37. ^ THE AUTO EDITORS OF CONSUMER GUIDE "HowStuffWorks "The Birth of the Ford Pinto"" How Stuff Works 
  38. ^ "Chevrolet Vega vs Ford Pinto" Car and Driver Magazine Nov 1971 Retrieved April 12, 2016 
  39. ^ "Ford Pinto Runabout: The secret to small-car success cannot be found in an options list" Car and Driver Magazine June 1974 
  40. ^ Lienert, Dan January 27, 2004 "The worst cars of all time" Forbes Retrieved March 6, 2016 "You don't want to talk about the Pinto," said a Ford official "Leave that one in the cemetery" Apparently, Ford has not forgotten the lawsuits and the public relations disasters forged by its Pinto hatchback and sedan The Pinto's famous safety flaw, of course, was that it was prone to blowing up if rear-ended When people talk about how bad American small cars created an opportunity for the Japanese to come in and clean house in the 1970s and '80s, they are referring to vehicles like this and see Chevrolet Vega, second slide 
  41. ^ a b Neil, Dan September 7, 2007 "1971 Ford Pinto – The 50 Worst Cars of All Time" Time Of course the Pinto goes on the Worst list, but not because it was a particularly bad car — not particularly — but because it had a rather volatile nature The car tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions The Pinto is at the end of one of autodom's most notorious paper trails, the Ford Pinto memo , which ruthlessly calculates the cost of reinforcing the rear end $121 million versus the potential payout to victims $50 million Conclusion Let 'em burn 
  42. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: The Pinto story has become a landmark narrative" Nichols 1997:324, a definitive story used to support the construction of amoral corporate behavior as a pervasive social problem This narrative was first stated publicly by investigative journalist Mark Dowie 1977 in a scathing Pulitzer Prize-winning expose, "Pinto Madness," published in Mother Jones magazine
  43. ^ Schwartz 1991: Having reflected on these invocations of the Ford Pinto case, I have arrived at two general observations One is that several significant factual misconceptions surround the public's understanding of the case Given the cumulative force of these misconceptions, the case can be properly referred to as "mythical"
  44. ^ Bazerman, Max H; Tenbrunsel, Ann E April 2011 "Ethical Breakdowns" Harvard Business Review Retrieved February 28, 2015 
  45. ^ Birsch, Douglas October 25, 1994 The Ford Pinto Case 
  46. ^ Woodyard, Chris March 28, 2011 "Case: Lee Iacocca's Pinto: A fiery failure" USA Today 
  47. ^ Kitman, Jamie March 24, 2011 "Don't Like Government Regulation How'd You Like Another Pinto" Cartalkcom 
  48. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Conventional wisdom holds that Ford Motor Company decided to rush the Pinto into production in 1970 to compete with compact foreign imports, despite internal pre-production tests that showed gas tank ruptures in low-speed rear-end collisions would produce deadly fires This decision purportedly derived from an infamous seven-page cost-benefit analysis the "Grush/Saunby Report" 1973 that valued human lives at $200,000 Settling burn victims' lawsuits would have cost $495 million, far less than the $137 million needed to make minor corrections According to this account, the company made an informed, cynical, and impressively coordinated decision that "payouts" Kelman and Hamilton 1989:311 to families of burn victims were more cost-effective than improving fuel tank integrity This description provides the unambiguous foundation on which the media and academics have built a Pinto gas tank decision-making narrative
  49. ^ Danley, John R 2005 "Polishing Up the Pinto: Legal Liability, Moral Blame, and Risk" Business Ethics Quarterly 15 2: 205–236 doi:105840/beq200515211 
  50. ^ Schwartz 1991
  51. ^ Rossow, Mark 2015 "Ethics: An Alternative Account of the Ford Pinto Case" Continuing Education and Development Inc 'Fixed-barrier' meant that the vehicle was moving towed backwards into a stationary barrier  The 20-mph fixed barrier standard was greeted with uniform opposition from the auto industry because it was a much more severe test than the moving-barrier standard  |access-date= requires |url= help
  52. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: pg 36, 43
  53. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: In the design stage 1967–1970, no company or government standard on rear-end fuel tank integrity existed to guide the engineers, but their actions were consistent with the taken for granted, industry-wide tradition of building lower levels of crashworthiness into small cars This situation changed in the marketing stage post 1970 Shortly after the 1971 model year Pintos were released, Ford adopted an internal20 mile-per-hour moving barrier standard for the 1973 model year-the only manufacturer to do so Gioia 1996; Strobel 1994 The extant legal/regulatory environment reinforced engineers' beliefs that this standard was quite reasonable" since it was the "same one recommended at that time by the federal General Services Administration; the Canadian equivalent of the GSA; the Society of Automotive Engineers; and a private consulting firm hired by NHTSA " and by NHTSA itself in 1969 Strobel 1980:205 This standard would constrain future debates by certifying the Pinto as safe" to Ford's subunit charged with evaluating potential recallable safety problems
  54. ^ Schwartz 1991:In August 1970, 1971 model-year Pintos began coming off the assembly line Just a few days later, NHTSA-which had never acted on its earlier proposal-advanced a more demanding set of proposed regulations Three months later, Ford officials decided that for purposes of the 1973 model year, Ford would adopt, as its own internal objective, the regulations that NHTSA had suggested in 1969 In order to respond to NHTSA's more recent proposal, Ford engineers, with actual Pintos now available, stepped up the crash-testing process, and identified a number of design modifications that might imp:rove the Pinto's performance In October 1971, Ford officials decided against incorporating any of these modifications into current Pintos; rather, it would wait until NHTSA clarified its position In 1973, NHTSA promulgated its fuel-tank standard but ruled that this standard would apply only to 1977 models Ford adopted a 20 mph moving-barrier standard for all 1973 cars
  55. ^ Strobel 1979: Ford then joined other automakers in an aggressive lobbying campaign that was successful in delaying and softening proposed federal standards on how strong fuel systems must be to resist rupture an potential explosion
  56. ^ Gioia 1992: The tank was positioned between the rear bumper and the rear axle a standard industry practice for the time
  57. ^ Schwartz 1991:Page 1015 and Footnote 9, "The court of appeal opinion referred to the Pinto's bumper as the flimsiest of any American car Grimshaw, 119 Cal App 3d at 774, 174 Cal Rptr at 360 Mark Robinson, Jr, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, is emphatic that this reference is correct Telephone interview with Mark Robinson, Jr Sept 12, 1990 hereinafter Robinson Interview In the later criminal case, however, Byron Bloch, a prosecution witness, stated in cross-examination that the Pinto's bumper was about the same as those of the Gremlin, Vega, and Dodge Colt See L STROBEL, supra note 5, at 157 "I would say they were all bad""
  58. ^ Danley 2005: A few months later Ford began crash-testing modified Mavericks in part to prepare a response to NHTSA's proposed regulations The results demonstrated vulnerability of fuel-integrity at fairly low speeds and some modifications were made In August of 1970, the first model year Pinto, the 1971, went into production Post-production testing revealed similar results Still, there were no federal performance standards at the time and the proposed regulations addressed only front-end collisions
  59. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: engineers in the design stage were still trying "to find out how to conduct crash tests" Feaheny 1997; see also Lacey 1986:613 For example, an internal Pinto test report dated November, 1970 listed as its objective "To develop a test procedure to be used to provide baseline data on vehicle fuel system integrity" NHTSA C7-38-Al5, Final Test Report #T-0738 In this test, a Pinto sedan exhibited "excessive fuel tank leakage" when towed rearward into a fixed barrier at 215 miles per hour, considered roughly equivalent to a car-to-car impact at 35 miles per hour Nothing in this, or any other, Ford test report indicates that participants felt cause for concern or organizational action Although some Ford engineers were not especially pleased, they felt that the data were inconclusive or the risks acceptable Feaheny 1997; Strobel 1980, or they kept their concerns to themselves Camps 1997 Some felt that cars would rarely be subjected to the extreme forces generated in a fixed-barrier test in real-world collisions Feaheny 1997; Devine 1996 NHTSA apparently agreed and ultimately replaced the proposed fixedbarrier test with a less-stringent moving-barrier test in its final standard US Department of Transportation 1988
  60. ^ Gioia 1992: Ford had in fact crash-tested 11 vehicles; 8 of these cars suffered potentially catastrophic gas tank ruptures The only 3 cars that survived intact had each been modified in some way to protect the tank
  61. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Occupational caution encouraged engineers to view many design adjustments that improved test performance as "unproven" in real-world accidents Devine 1996; Feaheny 1997; Schwartz 1991; Strickland 1996; Strobel 1980 Engineers, who typically value "uncertainty avoidance" Allison 1971:72 , chose to stick with an existing design rather than face uncertainties associated with novel ones Devine 1996; Strobel 1980 One series of tests, for instance, showed that Pintos equipped with pliable foam-like gas tanks would not leak in 30 mile-per-hour crashes But some engineers feared that such a tank might melt and disagreed with others who felt it was safer than the existing metal design Devine 1996, see also Strobel 1980 Other engineers believed that rubber bladders improved performance in tests, but anticipated problems under real-world conditions Strobel 1980
  62. ^ Schwartz 1991: As for additional design proposals brought forward by the plaintiffs, several of them-for example, a bladder within the gas tank, and a "tank within the tank"-concerned somewhat innovative technology that had never been utilized in actual auto production At trial, there was testimony that a bladder would have been feasible in the early 1970's, but also rebuttal testimony that a bladder was at this time beyond the bounds of feasibility
  63. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Ford whistle-blower Harley Copp's argument-that the Pinto would have been safer had its gas tank been placed above the axle rather than behind it-is often cited in Pinto narratives as an example of safety being sacrificed to profits, or at least trunk space, in the design stage Cullen, Maakestad and Cavender 1987; Dowie 1977; Strobel1994 Yet Copp did not reach this conclusion until 1977 Strobel1980 And other engineers were considerably less certain about it, even though the above-the-axle design did perform better in one set of crash tests The engineer overseeing the Pinto's design, Harold MacDonald whose father died in a fuel tank fire when his Model A Ford exploded after a frontal collision with a tree, felt that the above-the axle placement was less safe under real-world conditions because the tank was closer to the passenger compartment and more likely to be punctured by items in the trunk Strobel1980
  64. ^ Gioia 1992: I began to construct my own files of incoming safety problems One of these new files concerned reports of Pintos "lighting up" in the words of a field representative in rear-end accidents There were actually very few reports, perhaps because component failure was not initially assumed These cars simply were consumed by fire after apparently very low speed accidents
  65. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: When Gioia became Recall Coordinator, he inherited about 100 active recall campaigns, half of them safety-related As with most jobs, the enormous workload required him to use standard operating procedures" SOPs to organize and manage information for decision making d Kriesberg 1976:1102 SOPs increase organizational efficiency by operating as cognitive scripts that transform decision-making opportunities into largely predetermined action patterns Existing SOPs required that, to be "recallable," problems needed either high frequency or a directly traceable causal link to a design defect When reports began to trickle in to Gioia that Pintos were "lighting up" in relatively low speed accidents, and after viewing the burned wreckage of a Pinto, he initiated a meeting to determine if this represented a recallable problem His work group voted unanimously not to recall the Pinto because the weak data did not meet SOP criteria Gioia 1996 The work group was unaware of any cost-benefit analyses or Pinto crash test results Reports of Pinto fires continued to trickle in, and eventually Gioia did become aware of, and concerned about, the crash test results Again he wondered if the Pinto had a recallable problem, so he initiated a second meeting to convince his co-workers that crash tests showed a possible design flaw But others again saw no design flaws—after all, the Pinto met internal company standards, and no contradictory external standard existed The work group conceived the tank leak "problem" not as a defect, but as a fundamental and unalterable design feature: the car's small size, the use of light metals, and unibody construction produced a tendency for Pintos and others in its class to "crush up like an accordion" in rear-end collisions Gioia 1996
  66. ^ Grush, ES; Saundy, CS Fatalities Associated With Crash Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires PDF Report Ford Environmental and Safety Engineering Retrieved March 2, 2016 
  67. ^ Gioia 1992: The National Highway Traffic Safety Association NHTSA, a federal agency had approved the use of cost-benefit analysis as an appropriate means for establishing automotive safety design standards
  68. ^ Danley 2005: In calculating the benefits, the analysis used a figure of $200,000 per life NHTSA had developed this figure in 1972
  69. ^ a b Frank, Ted "Rollover Economics: Arbitrary and Capricious Product Liability Regimes" American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research  |access-date= requires |url= help
  70. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Based on information given to it by lawyers preparing cases against Ford, the Center for Auto Safety petitioned NHTSA in the mid-1970s to investigate the Pinto's rear-end design According to material presented on the Center's website, Dowie's article is based on that information, made available to him by the Center wwwautosafetyorg "Pinto Madness" is still available on the Mother Jones website along with a video clip showing a Pinto catching fire after being rear-ended In an interview with Gary T Schwartz of the Rutgers Law Review, Copp asserted that he was also a major source of the information for the Mother Jones story, Schwartz, "The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case," 1027, n53
  71. ^ Schwartz 1991:The Mother Jones article is suffused with an outrage at companies that apply a pernicious cost-benefit analysis in order to achieve "corporate profits"
  72. ^ Schwartz 1991: According to the Mother Jones article, as of 1977, somewhere between 500 and 900 persons had been killed in fires attributed to the Pinto's unique design features
  73. ^ Schwartz 1991:To sum up, the Ford document has been assigned an operational significance that it never possessed, and has been condemned as unethical on account of characterizations of the document that are in significant part unwarranted Of course, the condemnation of Ford's report is linked to the condemnation imposed by the public on the Pinto itself The common belief is that the Pinto, on account of its fuel-tank design, was a "firetrap" The Mother Jones article derived emotional power from its presentation of the Pinto as a "firetrap, a "death trap," and a "lethal car"47 The combination of that article, the verdict in the Ford Pinto case, the NHTSA initial determination, and the Pinto recall clearly conveyed this sense of the Pinto-as-firetrap to the general public
  74. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Dowie 1977 accurately explains in part of his Mother Jones article that Ford employees wrote this document as part of an ongoing lobbying effort to influence NHTSA 24, 28 But his readers have relied exclusively on his other claim, that it was the "internal" 20, 24 memo on which Ford based its decision to market the dangerous Pinto and settle the few inevitable lawsuits 31
  75. ^ a b Graham, John D 1991 Huber, Peter W; Litan, Robert E, eds "Does liability promote the safety of motor vehicles" The Liability Maze: the Impact of Liability Rules on Innovation and Safety Washington DC: Brookings Institution: 132 
  76. ^ Weiss, Joseph W 2014 Business Ethics: A Stakeholder and Issues Management Approach Berrett-Koehler Publishers ISBN 978-1-62656-141-0 
  77. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999:pg 41
  78. ^ Dowie 1977: Ford knows the Pinto is a firetrap, yet it has paid out millions to settle damage suits out of court, and it is prepared to spend millions more lobbying against safety standards  Ford waited eight years because its internal "cost-benefit analysis," which places a dollar value on human life, said it wasn't profitable to make the changes sooner
  79. ^ Dardis & Zent 1982: On August 10, 1977, Ralph Nader and Mark Dowie held a press conference to notify the public that unnecessary deaths and injuries were being suffered as a result of the faulty design of the pre-1977 model year Pinto
  80. ^ Center for Auto Safety 2009
  81. ^ Schwartz 1991:Pg 1019, Schwartz noted, "The Mother Jones article had encouraged consumers to write to NHTSA and demand a recall of earlier Pintos Responding to the wave of consumer complaints it received, NHTSA began a recall proceeding relating to 1971–1976 Pintos" Also see footnote 15
  82. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999:By 1977, the social context had changed Dowie's 1977:18 article had labeled the Pinto a "firetrap" and accused the agency of buckling to auto-industry pressure Public interest generated by the article forced a second Pinto investigation and guaranteed that NHTSA would be under a microscope for its duration
  83. ^ Dardis & Zent 1982: On August 11, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA began an investigation of the claims
  84. ^ Jones 1978: But NHTSA, a Department of Transportation agency, informed Ford on May 8 about results of the new investigation, which concluded that Pintos had a safety defect
  85. ^ Dardis & Zent 1982: In May 1978, NHTSA determined that pre-1977 model year Ford Pintos were subject to "fuel tank damage, Fuel leakage and fire occurrences which had resulted in fatalities and non-fatal burn injuries" when impacted at "moderate speeds," and that the "fire threshold" in those vehicles was reached at closing speeds of 30–35 MPH
  86. ^ Investigative Report: Alleged Fuel Tank and Filler Neck Damage in Rear-end Collisions of Subcompact Cars Passenger Cars, 1971–1976 Ford Pinto, 1975–1976 Mercury Bobcat PDF Report Office of Defects Investigation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration May 1978 Retrieved March 5, 2016 Based upon the information either developed or acquired during this investigation, the following conlcusions have been reached: 1971–1976 Ford Pintos have experienced moderate speed, rear-end collisions that have resulted in fuel tank damage, fuel leakage, and fire occurrences that have resulted in fatalities and non-fatal burn injuries 
  87. ^ Jones 1978: A spokesman for NHTSA said that his agency and Ford began a "process of negotiation" after May 8 that led to Ford's announcement in Detroit yesterday
  88. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: NHTSA engineer Lee Strickland was assigned to determine if Pinto and Chevrolet Vega tank problems warranted a mandatory recall Strickland's work group held the Pinto and Vega to a higher standard than other cars Strickland 1996 It dispensed with the usual moving barrier Instead, it intentionally selected a large and particularly rigid "bullet car" to hit the Pinto's rear end It weighed down the bullet car's nose to slide under the Pinto and maximize gas tank contact It also turned on the bullet car's headlights to provide a ready source of ignition And it completely filled gas tanks in both cars with gasoline rather than the non-flammable Stoddard fluid normally used Strickland justified these actions as approximating real-world worst-case circumstances Davidson 1983; NHTSA C7-38; Strickland 1996 For NHTSA, the tests seemed an unqualified success: two 1972 Pintos burst into flame upon impact In the summer of 1978 NHTSA announced that the Pinto gas tank represented a safety defect, leading to the largest recall campaign in automobile history at that time NHTSA C7-38; Strickland 1996 Ford agreed to "voluntarily" recall 1971–1976 Pintos Other small cars sold during the 19 70s were not recalled, even though most were comparable, or in the case of the AMC Gremlin probably less safe Schwartz 1991; NHTSA C7-38; Swigert and Farrell 198081:180 Their manufacturers successfully defended them as acceptable risks see Wallace 1978 When we asked why NHTSA forced a Pinto recall for failing the 35 mile-per-hour test, although most small cars could not withstand such a test, Strickland 1996 analogized that, "Just because your friends get away with shoplifting, doesn't mean you should get away with it too"
  89. ^ Lee, Matthew T 1998 "The Ford Pinto Case and the Development of Auto Safety Regulations, 1893—1978" Business and Economic History 27 2: 390–401 
  90. ^ Schwartz 1991: Relying on a variety of external sources including Ford, NHTSA indicated that it was aware of thirty-eight instances in which rear-end impact on Pintos had resulted in fuel-tank leakage or fire; these instances, in turn, resulted in twenty-seven deaths and twenty-four nonfatal burn injuries66 The NHTSA report also incorporated the data internally provided by NHTSA's own Fatal Accident Reporting System "FARS", which had begun operation in 1975 FARS data showed that from January 1975 through the middle of 1977, seventeen people had died in accidents in which Pinto rear-end collisions resulted in fires 67 In comparing NHTSA's figure of twenty-seven deaths for 1971–77 with the FARS figure of seventeen for 1975–77,68 one should keep in mind that the number of Pintos on the road was increasing every year in a cumulative way The NHTSA figure of twenty-seven fatalities hence seems roughly in the ballpark by way of suggesting the number of people who had died in Pinto rear-end fires In setting forth this number, however, NHTSA made no effort to estimate how many of these deaths were caused by the Pinto's specific design features Many fire deaths undeniably result from high-speed collisions that would induce leakage even in state-of-the-art fuel systems;69 moreover, cars in the subcompact class generally entail a relatively high fatality risk70 Yet the NHTSA report did not compare the performance results of the Pinto to the results of other cars then on the road, including other subcompacts
  91. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999:Beginning in the late 1970s, claims consistent with "Pinto Madness" readily gained public acceptance, but credible contradictory claims did not eg, Davidson 1983; Epstein 1980 For instance, Dowie's "conservative" estimate of 500 deaths 1977:18 was accepted, while NHTSA's report that it could document only 27 Pinto fire-related deaths NHTSA C7-38; Frank 1985 was ignored A transmission problem that also caused 27 Pinto deaths and 180 on other Ford products Clarke 1988 never became a social problem Similarly, publics accepted claims of safety errors leveled by Harley Copp, a Ford engineer who was apparently overseas when early crucial decisions were made Camps 1997; Strobel 1980, but ignored other safety-conscious Pinto engineers who believed windshield retention was a more important safety problem Camps 1997, and lack of safety glass caused more deaths Feaheny 1997
  92. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: By the time of its Pinto investigation, NHTSA had essentially abandoned its original mission of forcing industry-wide safety improvements, in favor of investigating and recalling specific cars Mashaw and Harfst 1990 NHTSA had two primary incentives in reinforcing the extant Nfocal organization" imagery of the Pinto narrative First, NHTSA was pressured by specific organizations in its network eg, the Center for Auto Safety and members of the public see NHTSA C7-38 to take action on the Pinto's gas tank Second, other network actors eg, courts, the Nixon administration, the auto industry had increasingly limited NHTSA's ability to address systemic auto safety issues
  93. ^ Danley 2005: Ford could have refused to recall and have chosen instead to defend the Pinto's design in the formal recall hearings at NHTSA" While this tactic could easily have delayed any forced recall for months, if not for more than a year, the cost of the publicized hearings to Ford's reputation could have been substantial, even if Ford had been successful in the end Ford agreed to "voluntarily recall" the Pinto in June 1978
  94. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: the Pinto was the subject of the largest recall in automobile history at the time
  95. ^ Jones 1978: In a prepared statement, Ford vice President Herbet L Misch said: "Ford informed NHTSA that it does not agree with the agency's initial determination of May 8 that an unreasonable risk of safety is involved in the design of these cars " Misch said Ford decided to offer the modifications "so as to end public concern that has resulted from criticism of the fuel systems in these vehicles"
  96. ^ https://wwwnhtsagov/vehicle/1975/FORD/PINTO#recalls  Missing or empty |title= help
  97. ^ Sherefkin 2003: Ford customers filed 117 lawsuits, according to Peter Wyden in The Unknown Iacocca
  98. ^ Danley 2005:Two important legal cases were central One was a civil trial that began in August 1977 in Orange County California, Grimshaw v Ford Motor Company The other was a case involving criminal reckless homicide in Indiana
  99. ^ Danley 2005
  100. ^ Schwartz 1991:The Pinto was then struck by a car, which had originally been traveling at about fifty miles per hour but which had braked down to a speed of perhaps thirty miles per hour at the point of impact9 footnote 9For reasons quite beyond the court's control, its opinion must be treated cautiously as a source of actual facts Because the defendant was appealing a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the court was under an obligation to view all the evidence in a way most favorable to the plaintiffs and essentially to ignore evidence in the record that might be favorable to the defendant See id at 773, 820, 174 Cal Rptr at 359, 388 In fact, Ford's basic position at trial-which the court's opinion at no point mentions was that the approaching car a Ford Galaxie had not slowed down at all, and had struck the Gray car at a speed in excess of 50 miles per hour There was an enormous amount of evidence at trial supporting each of the parties' factual claims as to the Galaxie's closing speed Had the jury accepted Ford's speed estimate, there would not have been much of an issue of crashworthiness: for the plaintiffs' position throughout trial was that even a state-of-the-art fuel system could not maintain integrity in a 50 mile-per hour collision
  101. ^ Danley 2005: pg 208
  102. ^ Schwartz 1991:pg 1016
  103. ^ Lee & Ermann 1999: Based on information given to it by lawyers preparing cases against Ford, the Center for Auto Safety petitioned NHTSA in the mid-1970s to investigate the Pinto's rear-end design According to material presented on the Center's website, Dowie's article is based on that information, made available to him by the Center wwwautosafetyorg "Pinto Madness" is still available on the Mother Jones website along with a video clip showing a Pinto catching fire after being rear-ended In an interview with Schwartz, Copp asserted that he was also a major source of the information for the Mother Jones story, Schwartz, "The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case," 1027, n53
  104. ^ Schwartz 1991: after deliberating for eight hours-awarded the Gray family wrongful death damages of $560,000; Grimshaw was awarded over $25 million in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages as well The trial judge reduced the punitive damage award to $35 million as a condition for denying a new trial Two years later the court of appeal affirmed these results in all respects; the state supreme court then denied a hearing
  105. ^ Christian, Nichole M; Henderson, Angelo B; Nomani, Asra Q October 9, 1997 "Chrysler is Told to Pay $2625 Million by Jurors in Minivan-Accident Trial" The Wall Street Journal p 1 Retrieved March 4, 2016 
  106. ^ McLellan, Dennis April 19, 2008 "Retired OC judge handled major cases" Los Angeles Times Retrieved March 4, 2016 
  107. ^ Danley 2005: pg 209
  108. ^ a b Williams, Carol J March 14, 2010 "Toyota is just the latest automaker to face auto safety litigation" Los Angeles Times Retrieved March 4, 2016 
  109. ^ Viscusi, W Kip February 2000 "Corporate Risk Analysis: A Reckless Act" PDF Stanford Law Review: 569 doi:102307/1229473 The basic problem is that jurors do not undertake a comprehensive risk analysis approach, regardless of its character Jurors have a tendency to compare the often very small per-unit safety cost with the costs borne by the injured victim Rather than examine the entire market and the associated benefits and costs, jurors will be offended by, or will not fully understand, a comprehensive risk-analysis approach and will focus their assessment more narrowly on the identified victim and the costs of preventing that injury The fact that these costs would also have been incurred for thousands of consumers who were not injured will not loom as large, as Judge Easterbrook emphasized Thus, there is a tendency to exhibit "hindsight bias" rather than to consider the expected costs and expected benefits at the time of the safety decision 
  110. ^ Viscusi, W Kip February 2000 "Corporate Risk Analysis: A Reckless Act" PDF Stanford Law Review: 569 doi:102307/1229473 
  111. ^ Schwartz, Gary T 1982–1983 "Deterrence and Punishment in the Common Law of Punitive Damages: A Comment" Southern California Law Review: 134 The Court of Appeal's opinion thus suggested that the Court would have been equally willing to have affirmed the trial judge's decision had he either accepted the jury's $125 million award or reduced the award to $1 million From a deterrence standpoint, it confounds understanding to permit such vast uncertainty as to the level of the expected penalty 
  112. ^ Schwartz 1991: Hence, there was nothing clearly wrong in subjecting Ford to liability for harms resulting from that latter category of fires The punitive damage award in the Ford Pinto case is, however, much more difficult to justify To a large extent it rested on the premise that Ford had behaved reprehensibly when it balanced safety against cost in designing the Pinto However, the process by which manufacturers render such trade-off design decisions seems not only to be anticipated but endorsed by the prevailing risk-benefit standard for design liability Accordingly, the Pinto jury's decision that punitive damages were appropriate-a decision that was affirmed by the trial judge and the court of appeal-raises serious questions about the operational viability of the risk-benefit standard itself
  113. ^ Epstein 1980
  114. ^ Becker, Jipson & Bruce 2002:There is little doubt about the importance of State of Indiana v Ford Motor Company from a legal standpoint This case was the first time criminal charges were bought against an American corporation for faulty product design According to attorney Malcolm Wheeler 1981, p 250, "newspapers referred to it as the most important economic case of the century " The notion that a corporation could be held accountable for its criminal actions was a novel legal concept at the time Wheeler was not alone in his estimation of the case as influential Because of the application of criminal law to corporate behavior, others have referred to this litigation as "unprecedented" Welty, 1982 and as a "landmark case" Clinard, 1990; Frank & Lynch, 1992; Hills, 1987; Maakestad, 1987 Maakestad 1987, p 7 stated that the case "reestablished an important precedent: In certain cases involving human health and safety, corporations and their executives could be required to submit not only to the scrutiny and sanctions of traditional federal regulatory agencies, but to state criminal courts as well"
  115. ^ a b Dole, Charles E March 14, 1980 "Pinto verdict lets US industry off hook" The Christian Science Monitor Retrieved March 3, 2016 An Indiana farm country jury in the 10-week landmark trial found Ford "not guilty" in the deaths of three teen-age girls whose 1973-model Pinto exploded when a speeding van struck it in the rear Aug 10, 1978 
  116. ^ Schwartz 1991:In August 1978-half a year after the verdict in the tort case-a 1973 Pinto was involved in a fatal crash in Ulrich, Indiana Indiana public officials decided to prosecute Ford for the crime of reckless homicide Because the reckless homicide statute had been enacted only in 1977, Ford could not be prosecuted for the reckless design of the Pinto; rather, the prosecution needed to show a reckless post-1977 failure by Ford to repair or warn Largely because of the narrowness of the resulting issue, at trial the prosecution was not able to secure the admission of internal Ford documents on which it had hoped to build its case Ford's defense effort in this criminal case was vastly more ambitious than the effort the company had previously mounted in defending itself against Grimshaw's tort claim In March 1980 the Indiana jury found Ford not guilty The jury seemed ambivalent about the Pinto, but concluded that Ford had avoided recklessness in the conduct of its recall program
  117. ^ Leviton, Joyce February 4, 1980 "A Local DA Charges the Pinto with Murder—and Watergate's James Neal Comes to Its Defense" People 13 5 Retrieved March 3, 2016 
  118. ^ Gladwell 2015: A former head of the NHTSA testified on Ford's behalf, stating that in his opinion the Pinto's design was no more or less safe than that of any other car in its class, like the Chevrolet Vega or the AMC Gremlin
  119. ^ Becker, Jipson & Bruce 2002
  120. ^ Sherefkin 2003: The low point for Ford came in 1979 when Indiana authorities charged the automaker with reckless homicide in a criminal trial
  121. ^ Becker, Jipson & Bruce 2002:Two main perspectives emerged after the Pinto trial as to how the case outcome would affect future uses of criminal law against corporations for product liability issues One viewpoint was stated by thenpresident of the National District Attorneys Association, Robert Johnson, Sr He is quoted as saying "We'll see more prosecutions like this  A psychological barrier has been broken, and the big corporations are now vulnerable" Bodine, 1980, p 3 The popular idea was that corporate malfeasance would be curtailed if corporations were held accountable for their actions Thus, the feeling among some legal commentators was that the Pinto case represented a fundamental shift in how the criminal courts would perceive corporations  Another perspective was that the case was completely frivolous Commenting on civil litigation, Harry Philo, then president-elect of the Association of American Trial Lawyers of America, commented that "In my opinion, the Pinto case was a completely irrelevant prosecution" Stuart, 1980, p4 However, he also stated that "the verdict won't deter civil lawsuits" Mleczko, 1980, llA
  122. ^ Epstein 1980:The important point here is that neither the drama of the case nor its outcome should be allowed to obscure the essential legal and institutional issues On the record, this criminal prosecution should never have been brought at all
  123. ^ Becker, Jipson & Bruce 2002:The very fact that there has not been another product liability criminal prosectution since that case tells you one major impact of the case was  that it said the criminal law is a very, very poor tool to use for product litigation It's just not appropriate
  124. ^ Becker, Jipson & Bruce 2002:Paul Weaver worked for the Ford Motor Company from 1978 to 1980 in the corporation's public affairs staff preparing company positions on public policy issues He criticized Ford for how it dealt with the controversy surrounding the Pinto According to Weaver 1988, p94, "the design of its Pinto's fuel system was essentially the same as that of other cars of its size and generation" and "Pintos had about the same rate of death from fire due to rear-end collision as other small cars" His assertion is that the Pinto was not unusual compared to similar models Weaver admits that "we should simply have told the truth about the car" and "we did not fight to vindicate ourselves" Thus, by refusing to mount a major publicity campaign, Ford gave the impression that it was guilty  These remarks add an interesting dimension to the Pinto case in that one of the clear lessons was to confront issues raised about defective products This concern illustrates that after the Pinto case, corporations became much more willing and adept at handling images stemming from poor design In other words, the Pinto case made corporations much more willing to wage public relations battles over design and production flaws
  125. ^ Spear, Gillian June 18, 2013 "Take that back: Famous recalls, from Tylenol to Toyota" NBC News Retrieved March 5, 2016 Three people died before the recall and six died in Pinto fires during the time following the recall but before the parts to repair the vehicle were made available 
  126. ^ a b "Top 10 Product Recalls" Time July 2, 2009 Retrieved March 5, 2016 
  127. ^ Huffman, John Pearley February 12, 2010 "5 Most Notorious Recalls of All Time" Popular Mechanics Retrieved March 5, 2016 
  128. ^ a b Schwartz 1991 Footnote pg 1029
  129. ^ Schwartz 1991 pg 1031
  130. ^ Schwartz 1991 pg 1033


  • "Recall to Affect 165,000 US Pinto Owners" Reading Eagle Associated Press March 30, 1971 Retrieved March 7, 2016 
  • Becker, Paul J; Jipson, Arthur J; Bruce, Alan S March 2002 "State of Indiana V Ford Motor Company Revisited" American Journal of Criminal Justice 26 2 doi:101007/bf02887826 
  • "Ford Pinto Fuel Tank" Center for Auto Safety November 13, 2009 Retrieved March 5, 2016 
  • Danley, John R April 2005 "Polishing up the Pinto: Legal Liability, Moral Blame, and Risk" Business Ethics Quarterly 15 2: 205–236 doi:105840/beq200515211 
  • Dardis, Rachel; Zent, Claudia December 1, 1982 "The Economics of the Pinto Recall" Journal of Consumer Affairs 16 2: 261–277 doi:101111/j1745-66061982tb00175x 
  • Dowie, Mark September 1977 "Pinto Madness" Mother Jones Retrieved January 17, 2014 
  • Epstein, Richard A April 1980 "Is Pinto a Criminal" PDF AEI Journal on Government and Society 
  • Gladwell, Malcolm May 4, 2015 "The Engineer's Lament" The New Yorker Retrieved March 3, 2016 
  • Gioia, Dennis A May 1992 "Pinto fires and personal ethics: A script analysis of missed opportunities" Journal of Business Ethics 11 5–6: 379–389 doi:101007/BF00870550 
  • Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co, 119 CA3d 757 Cal App 1981
  • Jones, William H June 10, 1978 "Ford Recalls 15 Million Small Cars Ford Recalls 15 Million Pintos, Bobcats, Pintos, Bolcats Face Alteration To Cut Fire Risk" The Washington Post Retrieved March 4, 2016 
  • Lee, Matthew T; Ermann, M David Feb 1999 "Pinto "Madness" as a Flawed Landmark Narrative: An Organizational and Network Analysis" Social Problems 46 1: 30–47 doi:101525/sp199946103x0240f 
  • Lewis, David L 2003 100 Years of Ford Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd ISBN 0-7853-7988-6 
  • Schwartz, Gary T 1991 "The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case" PDF Rutgers Law Review 43: 1013–1068 
  • Sherefkin, Robert June 16, 2003 "Lee Iacocca's Pinto: A fiery failure" Automotive News Retrieved March 6, 2016 
  • Strobel, Lee October 13, 1979 "Ford ignored Pinto fire peril, secret memos show; Tests of gas tank indicated hazards" Chicago Tribune p 1 Retrieved March 12, 2016 
  • Stuart, Reginald June 11, 1980 "Government notifies Ford of possible recall for 16 million autos" The New York Times 
  • Wojdyla, Ben May 20, 2011 "The Top Automotive Engineering Failures: The Ford Pinto Fuel Tanks" Popular Mechanics Retrieved February 28, 2015 

External links

  • Ford Pinto at DMOZ
  • FordPintocom
  • Mother Jones magazine's 1977 expose on the Ford Pinto
  • Ford Pinto at The Crittenden Automotive Library includes full 1973 brochure in JPG format
  • Ford Pinto Specifications and Production figures
  • Ford Pinto Introduction Commercial
  • Case Study: Ford Pinto produced by the Business Ethics Workshop at Pace University

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