Ford Pinto Scandal
The Ford Pinto was a compact car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. It was first introduced in 1971, and was built through the 1980 model year. Like many Ford cars, it had a "twin": in the Pinto's case, the Mercury Bobcat.
The car's 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 A-arms with coil springs at the front and the live axle rear was suspended on leaf springs. The Rack and pinion steering had optional power assist, as did the brakes.
Through the production run of the model, it became a focus of a major scandal when it was discovered that the car's design allowed its fuel tank to be easily damaged in the event of a rear end collision which often resulted in deadly fires and explosions.
Furthermore, it was alleged that Ford was aware of this design flaw, but they refused to pay the minimal expense of a redesign.
Instead, it was argued, Ford decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths. This discovery of Ford's apparent disregard for human lives in favor of profits led to major lawsuits, inconclusive criminal charges, and a costly recall of all affected Pintos.
More recently, it has been argued (in a 1991 law review paper by Gary Schwartz, among others) that the case against the Pinto was less clear cut than commonly supposed.
Only 27 people ever died in Pinto fires, which given the Pinto's production figures (over 2 million built) was no worse than typical for the time. Schwartz argues that the car was no more fire-prone than other cars of the time, and that the supposed 'smoking gun' document showing Ford's callousness actually referred to the auto industry in general rather than the Pinto specifically.
Ford Motor Company faced a similar product liability scandal in the 1990s and 2000s with the Bridgestone/Firestone tires installed as factory equipment on their Explorer sport utilities, as well as the safety concerns with the full-size Crown Victoria police cruisers in response to ruptured fuel tanks.
Due to the engineering, safety, and reliability problems, Forbes Magazine included the Pinto on its list of the worst cars of all time.
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