The Ford Pinto

Pinto, 48"x48", acrylic, on recovered plywood.

Pinto, 48″x48″, acrylic, on recovered plywood.

My memories of the Ford Pinto are from my Dad’s car pool pal “Curly” Kennedy who owned one. Curly was a giant of a man in many ways. As a boy, when I was sent out to tell him that my Dad would be right out, I would tease him about his car, which he always took with grace. I have a memory of his knees being at his chin sitting in the front of that Pinto. But the real joy of the job was to sit on the curb and talk with Curly before him and my Dad went to work when they were on the afternoon shift.

The 1970s were a hard time for the auto industry in North America. Cars where big, poorly manufactured and gas-guzzlers. The oil embargo in the Middle East and the strengthening market share of foreign imported cars, which were better on petrol with higher quality techniques in manufacturing, necessitated a massive rethink of car design in Detroit.

The Ford Pinto was a response to cheaper more fuel-efficient imports. The Pinto was Ford’s car to counter the enduring popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle, which is a testament to the enduring power of the bug which was designed in the early 1930s in Germany.

The Pinto was marketed as a “carefree” fuel-efficient car, like the pinto horse, a high utility animal with little demands. The car was piloted through the design phase by auto industry legend Lee Iacocca. Iacocca was also the driving force of the Ford Mustang and pushed for a minivan at Ford too, but had to realise the idea when he move to Chrysler with the Caravan. The Pinto was intended to be a car 2000 pounds and to sell for $2000. A car that was more affordable than a VW super beetle.

You can read more about the pinto here: Wikipedia on Ford Pinto 1971-1980 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto

Of course, the most infamous part about the Pinto was the exploding gas tank. Ford became aware of the design defect, but decided against a recall of the car. A cost benefit analysis was done comparing the cost of recalling against the potential cost from the lost of life and property. Ford executives made the decision, that not recalling was a better business decisions despite the loss of life and suffering. One of the worst business decisions made by the auto sector it is used as a case study now on business ethics.

You can read more about it here, The Ford Pinto Case;

https://users.wfu.edu/palmitar/Law&Valuation/Papers/1999/Leggett-pinto.html

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