The Ford/firestone Case
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The Ford/Firestone Case
This case involves Ford and the Japanese tire manufacturer, Bridgestone/Firestone. The Ford Explorers which were prone to rolling over, came equipped with Firestone defected tires. The tire seemed to have a defect that caused the tread to separate from the whole of the tire and cause the vehicle to flip. Although Firestone knew about such defects, they continued to produce despite knowing the deadly consequences that lay behind their actions. The Explorer also had a bad reputation of rolling over and Ford knew it. As a result, fatal accidents occurred from these two combinations. Since this was a very serious safety issue, Ford and Firestone were ordering the recall of problem tires in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Asia but not in the United States. So, did the company act ethically in resolving this crisis? No, the companies failed to fix the problem in the United States. According to NHTSA, the tires have caused many deaths and injuries in the United States. In fact, these accidents would have not occurred if both companies have solved the problem immediately. Thus, despite the obvious safety issues, there were also fundamental ethical issues.
Did they protect the health and well being of affected publics?
Ford and Firestone knew that they were having problems with their products before all of these accidents happened. For instance “Ford internal documents show the company engineers recommended changes to the vehicle design after it rolled over in company tests prior to introduction.”(www.ratical.org/corporation) Moreover, “In 1998, mounting insurance claims already had indicated to financial staff members at Firestone that a problem existed with the tires.” (www.ombuds.org.) But Ford and Firestone did not take any action to fix the problem. So it was obvious then that they were not concerned for the well being of the people. Even staff members who knew that the safety of customers was in danger due to the defect of these tires, failed to report it to the authorities. And when Firestone was confronted with accusations about the performance of the tire, they provided misleading information. Therefore, this represented a very critical ethical problem. According to an executive director of auto safety, “if consumers never find out about this problem, these companies will end up saving millions of dollars in recall costs at the expense of peoples safety and lives”( www.autosafety.org). So it seemed then that money was more of a concern than consumer safety.
Another ethical issue was the fact that they kept the defects of their tires secret. When people sued them for rollover crashes, they settled the lawsuits with orders forbidding the lawyers and the victims from telling about the problem to others. Moreover, according to attorneys at law “orders that conceal safety defect information are unethical when imposed as a condition of settlement, because they force the lawyer and client to choose between the timely completions of their case and withholding information from the public.”(www.kraftlaw.com).
According to NHTSA companies are supposed to report any defects of their products to them. So Ford and Firestone had a legal obligation to report this problem. But they failed to inform NHTSA of the growing problem with their products. So, they covered up their mistakes by not telling. “Covering up defects to avoid recalls is profitable for manufacturers even if they get caught by NHTSA.”(www.autosafety.org). NHTSA knew that they were having problems for a while. For instance, NHTSA got complaints from consumers in the early 90s. In addition they receive complaints from insurance companies and other organizations. But they failed to take it seriously. As a result, Ford and Firestone continued getting away with their unethical conduct.
Did these companies assume social responsibility right away?
By the year 2000, over 100 people were killed in accidents involving the Ford Explorer equipped with Firestone tires. This led to an investigation by NHTSA and the recall of tires by Firestone and Ford. .So, “Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires, mostly original equipment on the Ford Explorer, the worlds top-selling sport utility.”(www.forbes.com).So, did these companies assume social responsibility right away? No, according to Autosafety, “the Ford Motor Company has known about this problem since it began, yet it has concealed it from consumers and government regulators for well over a decade” (www.autosafety.org) In addition, when they were confronted by the authorities they were blaming each other. For instance, Firestone blamed the problem with the Ford Explores and Ford blamed