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The Most Notorious Auto Defects in History Part 1: The Ford Pinto

Posted On January 29, 2018 In Personal Injury

Why the Ford Pinto became a national scandal.The Ford Pinto is responsible for one of the most infamous auto industry scandals in US history. This once-popular subcompact car is also a terrifying example of what can happen to consumers when products contain deadly safety defects. Fuel tanks in these vehicles were prone to being punctured or rupturing during low-speed, rear-end collisions. Gasoline would leak underneath the vehicle and combust. An estimated 27 to 180 people were killed by fuel tank fires. Additional victims were disfigured from burn injuries.

You may be wondering why a company would release a product that was prone to exploding during rear-end minor collisions. The story of the Ford Pinto is also a tale of corporate greed.

During the late 1960s, Ford was desperate to compete with foreign manufacturers that were selling cheaper, smaller vehicles in the US. The Pinto was Ford’s answer to becoming competitive in this market. Ford executives wanted to get the Pinto onto the market as soon as possible. A 25-month delivery deadline was set.

Ford initially discovered the fuel tank problem during low-speed, rear-end crash tests. Multiple tests resulted in fuel tank ruptures. There were two reasons why this kept happening. Engineers discovered that the fuel tanks could be punctured by bolts. The filler necks could also tear away from the fuel tanks. Both flaws caused fuel leaks and created a major fire hazard.

However, there were several tests that did not result in fuel tank ruptures. Engineers had used various safety devices that protected the fuel tanks during those tests. An internal memo uncovered during a lawsuit against Ford showed that it had made a cruel calculation while deciding whether to apply fixes to the fuel tanks. According to this memo, Ford calculated that it would have cost $113 million to delay production and apply the fixes, but only $49 million to pay damages from lawsuits filed by victims.

Ford did eventually issue a recall for 1971-1976 Pintos in 1978. By the time the recall was announced, countless people had their lives ended or destroyed. In one case, a 13-year-old boy suffered severe burns and disfigurement. Three teenage girls in Indiana burned alive while riding in a Ford Pinto.

More than 100 lawsuits were filed against Ford by crash survivors and their families. We will never know the damages Ford paid victims because many of the cases were settled out-of-court. However, the damage to Ford’s reputation at the time was substantial. Even decades after its release, many people still remember the infamous Ford Pinto.

Injured by a Defective Auto Product?

You can contact the Texas product liability lawyers at Mike Love & Associates, LLC for a free consultation if you or a loved one were injured by a defective auto product. Our attorneys can review your situation and inform you of available legal options to pursue damages.

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