Utilitarian analysis details a modern hedonistic ethical theory that has the teachings that happiness can be regarded as the end of the conduct of human beings. According to utilitarianism, human conduct can be distinguished to be either wrong or right based on pain, as well as pleasure. One of the most notable advocates of this approach is John Stuart Mill who claimed that actions can be regarded as right when they bring happiness, and they can be said to be wrong if they lead to pain. Utilitarian approach entails the analysis of whether a moral issue can be regarded as ethically justifiable or not (Carper, John, and Bill 33-35). The action to be evaluated includes the decision by Ford Motor Company to produce a new brand known as Pinto. In May 1968, the then vice-president of Ford Motor Company (Lee Iacocca) recommended that the Company produces a subcompact car domestically. In order to get a large market share, the Company decided to design the automobile and develop it on a schedule, which can be regarded as having been accelerated.
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Pinto recorded desirable sales during the first few years; however, a disaster ensued later. When conducting a utilitarian analysis, the first step includes defining the utility to maximize while the second step details considering the stakeholders involved in the case. The third step entails calculating the maximum and minimum options, as well as options, which can be instrumental in the analysis. The fourth step in utilitarian analysis includes weighing the available options for the greater good of the decision to be made. In the Ford Pinto case, the main controversy centers on the choices that the Company made during the manufacture and design of the automobile, which seems to have compromised the safety while maximizing profits. Ford made the decision to utilize cost/benefit analysis to come up with production decisions, which led to the loss of lives (Birsch 150-163).
During the first phase, which detailed the production and testing of the automobile, Ford came up with “limits for 2000.” The aim of this was to ensure that the car could not exceed the weight of 2000 pounds or a cost of $2000. When the design of the automobile was completed, Ford begun to test the model. The crush testing revealed that the gas tank of Pinto ruptured when struck from the rear, especially at a speed of 31 miles per hour. Although the positioning of the tank was in line with the industry standards during that time, the gas tank would be punctured by the studs, which protruded from the rear axle. The fuel filter neck broke on impact, which would lead to the spilling of gasoline. As a result, the Pinto became a death trap as it endangered the lives of those who rode in it. Out of the eleven tested automobiles, eleven turned out to be catastrophic (Birsch 150-163).
In the case of Ford Pinto, a cost-benefit analysis shows that the costs associated with the model tend to outweigh the benefits. Twenty seven people died while twenty four got injured, and there was the destruction of thirty eight vehicles. The decision by Ford also caused financial loss by the company, and the reputation of the company got ruined. There is no benefit that the company got, which outweighs the harms associated with the manufacture of the Pinto automobile. Thus, one can conclude that the company acted unethically by conducting the cost benefit analysis without having to upgrade the fuel system in order to ensure reliability (Carper, John, and Bill 33-35).
The harmful consequences associated with the failure to have the fuel system upgraded are a clear indication that the action by Ford is unethical. The benefits from the design, manufacture, and introduction of the Pinto automobile were minimal as compared to the harms, which the automobile caused. With regard to both the utilitarian and human rights approaches to the issue of Pinto, it can be summed up that the action undertaken by Ford was not ethically justifiable. The company did not do a comprehensive analysis of the situation before embarking on the manufacture of Pinto. The deaths, injuries, as well as losses incurred by the company, can be regarded as unnecessary since the company could have avoided these occurrences had it put the right measures in place (Hausman and Michael 201-205).
The failure of the Ford management to consider the human rights issue while introducing the automobile is morally unjustifiable. The managers did not assess the damage that the automobile would cause to the passengers, as well as drivers. It was also unethical to allow people to die since the management could have contained the situation, and ensure that no death would occur from mere neglect. Placing a monetary value on the life of human beings can also be regarded as having being unethical. This is because it is because of this issue that the company decided not to make Pinto safer than it was (Hausman and Michael 201-205).
In conclusion, based on the utilitarian analysis of the Ford Pinto case, the company could have avoided the occurrence of such a situation, which can be termed as having being unethical. If the company had met the reasonable and required safety expectations, then it would have been easy to avoid what happened. The decision by Ford was both financially unwise and not in line with ethical requirements. The managers did not take into consideration the negative consequences of their decision not to guarantee customers of the product safety.
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