The Ford Pinto Case

The Ford Pinto Case
This paper regards, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Whistleblowing and the Ford Pinto Case. (See Chapter 3(DeGeorge) to read about Utilitarianism, Chapter 4 (DeGeorge) to read about Deontology and
see chapter 14 (DeGeorge) to read about the Ford Pinto Case and about Whistleblowing).
The Ford Pinto Case:
In 1968, the Ford Motor Company, in order to increase its market
share, decided to develop a subcompact car—the Ford Pinto. Due to
market pressures, the Pinto was designed and developed on an
accelerated schedule. In its haste, the designers overlooked some
serious defects in the design of the car’s fuel system. One of the main
defects was that the fuel tank was located nine inches behind the rear
axle and there was nothing protecting it from the impact of potential
rear end collusions. This meant, inter alia, that, in the event of a rear
end collision, the fuel tank could explode and the car could burst into
flames. The consequences of the design defect could thus prove to be
The heads of the company were informed of the defect after the cars
had gone into production and were ready to be released. They were
also informed that there was a pretty easy fix—place a $11 plate baffle
inside each fuel tank. The baffle plates would prevent the fuel tanks
from exploding.
The heads of the company decided, after careful consideration, it
would go ahead and release the cars for sale without the baffle
modification. Their reasoning, after having done a risk benefit
analysis, was that it would cost the company more to make the baffle
modifications than it would to pay out on the potential legal suits (for
wrongful deaths and injuries). Putting baffles into every Pinto would
cost about $135 million. Paying out on the suits would cost, they
estimated, about $49 million.
There were people, within the company, “who knew” the company’s
decision to release the Pintos for sale, without the modifications, would
put the general public at serious risk.
Your Assignment:
Write a 4-5 page paper arguing that, on both the Utilitarian and the
Deontological conceptions of morality, those, within the company,
that knew about the decision to release the Pintos for sale, had a
moral obligation to blow the whistle on the company and warn the
general public that it was putting their safety at risk.
The paper should have 5 parts.
I. Introduction. Tell us what the paper is going to be about.
(It is about the Ford Pinto Case, whistleblowing, Utiliarianism
and Deontology). It is about whether people, within the
company, “in the know”, had a moral obligation to blow the
whistle on their own company.
II. Thesis: State in a single sentence which you will be arguing
for. You will argue that on the two leading conceptions of
morality (both Utilitarianism and Deontology), those “in the
know” had a moral obligation.
III. Set up the case. Tell us all the relevant facts about the
case. Tell us what whistleblowing. What is whistleblowing?
Tell us about the conditions for when one can and when we
must “blow the whistle”. Tell us about the Utilitarian
conception of morality. What is the Utilitarian conception of
morality. Tell us about Deontology. What is the deontological
conception of morality.
IV. Present your arguments. First argue that, on the Utilitarian
conception of morality, those “in the know”, had a moral
obligation to blow the whistle. Then, argue that, on the
deontological conception of morality also, those “in the know”
had a moral obligation to blow the whistle.
V. Conclusion. What is the one thing the reader should have
learned by having read your paper. That is, tell us what the
lesson or moral of your paper is.

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