In 1968, the Ford Motor Company decided to introduce a subcompact car and produce it domestically. In an effort to gain a large market share, the car was designed and developed on an accelerated schedule. The controversy surrounding the Ford Pinto concerned the placement of the automobile's fuel tank. It was located behind the rear axle, instead of above it. The problem with this design, which later became evident, was that it made the Pinto more vulnerable to a rear-end collision. Fuel filler pipe design resulted in a higher probability that it would to disconnect from the tank in the event of an accident than usual, causing gas spillage that could lead to dangerous fires. Because of these numerous design flaws, the Pinto became the center of public debate.
Although Ford had access to a new design which would decrease the possibility of the Pinto from exploding, the company chose not to implement the design, which would have cost $11 per car, even though it had done an analysis showing that the new design would result in 180 less deaths. The company defended itself on the grounds that it used the acceped risk/benefit analysis to determine if the monetary costs of making the change were greater than the social benefit. Based on the numbers Ford used, the cost would have been $137 million versus the $49.5 million price tag put on the deaths, injuries and car damages, and thus Ford felt justified not implementing the design change. In addition, US Road Administration was bribed to remain "silent" on the issue of car deffect.
Based on this analysis, Ford legally chose not to make the design changes which would have made the Pinto safer. However, just because it was legal does not necessarily mean that it was ethical. It is difficult to understand how a price can be put on saving a human life.
Unchanged design resulted high number of casualties than it was predicted by Ford and Ford was oliged to withdraw all Ford Pinto models in 1978.