The case involving Ford-Firestone is unique because it presents some ethical and legal dilemmas. It can be claimed that what the two companies did was either ethical or unethical. It is also reasonable to attest that the companies acted within the established legal framework. However, it can also be interpreted that the companies' actions were totally illegal and that they ought to take the blame and stand trial. To a large extent, Ford was fully aware of the safety issues that the prototype was facing. However, the company failed to solve the problem so as not to affect the supply and accumulation of profits. Correcting this problem would have meant redesigning the production process, and this would have resulted into delays in delivering the products to the market. At this juncture, the ethics of the companies become questionable. Instead of taking their responsibility the two companies started a blame game. None of them was willing to be accountable for the many deaths that had resulted from the Ford Rollover. Ford came out and said that the deaths and accidents were as a result of a defect in the tires manufactured by Firestone. The company's executives claimed that it was a tire problem and not a car problem. On the other hand, Firestone reported that the deaths and accidents were as a result of stability lack in the vehicle. While each of the company could have been right in their arguments, they were also responsible for deaths and accidents that happened.
Was What Firestone/Ford Did Ethical or Unethical?
The Firestone-Ford can be one of the great controversies in business ethics. The two companies were struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for tires and Ford vehicles. However, Ford was fully aware of what was happening. The company was aware of the safety queries that the prototype was facing, however, solving this problem would mean stopping its production first so as to redesign the production channels. Ford decided to continue producing defective design while basing their justification on the cost-benefit analysis. In this context, an ethical dilemma was created. Should the analysis be the sole reason to continue producing a defective product and lead to the deaths of innocent people? In this controversy, one can say that Ford-Firestone actions were highly unethical (Bowie 48).
Based on the information given by Ford Company, they decided and assumed that a great benefit would be realized if the production went on without redesigning. Firestone can also be said to have acted unethically because, as the tire manufacturer, it ought to have tested its tires to verify that they were suitable to be used in the Ford cars. Despite all these, the big question is whether Ford-Firestone's action was ethical or not. It is not ethical to condemn punishment as Kantians would do, and that is the reason those who believe in Kant's philosophies do not see any problem when they commit a crime. The fact that an individual gets punishment for an action perceived as an offence or unethical should not attract a lot of criticism if the society is to uphold moral standards. It would only be unethical or wrong, if the individual being punished has not committed a crime, perhaps just an accused or a suspect (Jennings 29).
Utilitarianism is the empirical and normative philosophy that believes that the best thing to do s to ensure that the actions produce the best overall consequences for all the parties involved. Therefore, utilitarianism defines the acceptable or right actions as those that maximize on total utility and greatest results for a large number of people. In the case of Ford and Firestone unethical behavior, utilitarianism should have been used to identify the favorable consequences for the greatest number. In this controversy, a large number of individuals (customers) suffered at the expense of the companies making additional profits (Penenberg 53).
Federal data showed that 91 % of the deaths of occupants in Ford Explorer had involved rollover as a result of defective tires. In 2001, approximately 175 deaths and over 700 injuries in America were a result of Ford Explorer rolling. In order to mitigate Ford-Firestone rollover problems at the end of 1999, there was a need for a thorough application of combined morals and professionalism in performing various tasks at the corporation. The data used for making essential plans and testing phase of tires is there, only that there are people who want to use them for self-gain which is highly unethical. An additional question that begs for an answer is whether the two companies acted in a way that protected the health of the affected people. Internal documents at Ford Company show that engineers had recommended changes in the vehicle design after it had rolled over during a company test (Engineering Analysis Report and Initial Decision Regarding Ea00-023 17).
In corporate management, there are immoral or unethical people who feel they ought to benefit from organizational undertakings, which is despite the fact that their actions can bring the company down. Such cases are as a result of customers failing to buy the company's products. This comes because of an innate feeling of selfishness whose solution becomes possible when managers uphold high standards of integrity and ethics. The essential plan used for making the tires could point the fault so that the corporation makes necessary adjustments to improve the quality of its tires and save people's lives. Having deadly tires on the road without attempting to correct the problem is unethical and unlawful because many people continue to die due to the company's fault and managerial negligence (Shaw 22).
The actions taken by the companies show disgust and anger as the two were at fault because of their involvement in a common business. It is hard to separate the car and the tires and treat them as different items while they are working together. Ethics would have demanded that the two companies work together and behave to the highest standards. Ford should have ensured that the tires were working to perception. On the other hand, Firestone had an ethical role of ensuring that they distributed their tires to a sound vehicle. It can thus be concluded the actions of Ford and Firestone were unethical. The company had engineers who could have identified and solved the problem. It is dishonorable for a business to accumulate huge profits while people continue to suffer and die (Bowie 36).
Kantian duty ethics is another justification that can show that the two companys' actions were unethical. While the utilitarianism is concerned with the outcome of human moral decision, Kant believes that the motive is fundamental to morality. If the two companies were to make a decision guided by the Kant approach to ethics, they would have stopped further production. Ford should have continued with production only after verifying that the car was safe. There was no goodwill in Ford's motive because the company's main motive was to make huge profits at the cost of people's health and life. Kant ethics thus proves that Ford decision was immoral because the company released unsafe cars to the public (Hartley 33).
Nevertheless, despite the fact Ford and Firestone actions showed some unethical behavior, the two companies can be said to have acted on ethical grounds. Ford was selling their vehicle at a very consumer friendly price. Just like any other company Ford business was great, and customers were happy. People who bought the car and never got involved in any accidents can say that Ford actions on going on and producing cars were ethical. The company was helping people who could not afford buying other cars such as BMW. Therefore, the two companies were responding to an increased demand in the market. For Ford Company, the demand for Ford Explorer was on the rise and according to Utilitarianism: a person's action should be tailored to delivering the best result to other people. On the other hand, Firestone was responding to an increase in tire demand. They were fulfilling a moral obligation of supplying tires so as to enhance the movement of citizens (Ford, Firestone and Dud Tyres 41).
Utilitarianism founded on the concept that the correct action or thing to do under any circumstances is to ensure production of the best results for all the people being affected by the activity or action. In the information produced by the federal agencies, only 175 deaths and approximately 700 injuries occurred because of the company's decision. Road accidents happen every day. It would be very harsh to put all the blame on the companies' actions. Therefore, their decision to go ahead and deliver cars to the citizens was highly ethical. They were fulfilling a noble course of ensuring that the economy did not stop. Transport is one of the biggest drivers of the economy in America. Every action has consequences. It is only unfortunate that some deaths were reported and related to defective car design and tires (Donaldson, Patricia and Zandt 58).
Was Firestone-Ford Action Legal or Illegal?
The legality of the Ford-Firestone controversy is highly linked so that it is impossible to debate one without discussing the other. Without a doubt, it is the legal liability of the manufacture of a product that comprises of various components manufactured by other companies. Just like in the Drug and Food administration and the Environmental Protection Agency laws. There should be felonious charges for careless endangerment and willful refusal to call back the faulty vehicles. With respect to this, it can be alleged that the actions of the two companies constitute a crime, and this makes their actions illegal. The action of the company led to the death of innocent citizens and left dozens injured. For any company to start releasing its products to the consumers, the law requires the company to test the products or services before self-certifying for compliance with the agency's standards. It was also illegal for the companies not to send NHTSA copies of all notices and test results. Ford-Firestone case is a case that has lasted for several years and up to now it has not yet been resolved. Chances are also high that this case will never be resolved conclusively. It all began in the engineering rooms where the tires and the vehicles were manufactured and tested for safety. If professionalism and engineering ethics were to be put into context of the Ford-Firestone controversy, both of these companies were guilty regardless of the evil intent or not (Ford, Firestone and Dud Tyres 56).
The companies must be responsible for their actions and pay whatever is asked by the courts. In case there is an error in determining the damages, the error should be made on the harsh side. This will be a lesson to all corporations and businesses that try to act in a similar manner. However, saying that that the companies' actions were totally illegal would be wrong. From the discussion above it is obvious that this controversy can be termed to be more an ethical than a legal issue. Hence it needs to go on further for a waste of space and time with an effort to squeeze out more of the conclusion so clearly outlined and set in the case. From the internal documents, it is clear that the companies' engineers had recommended some changes to be done to the vehicle design (Hartley 49).
However, other than some few changes, the track width and suspension were not changed because this would have delayed introduction date. Instead of making the necessary changes to reduce the rollover effects, Ford decided to remove pressure or air from the tires lowering the recommended psi to 26. This was an illegal act because the management knew the danger they were exposing the clients to. According to the NTMS Safety Act, a car manufacturer should conduct a trial before releasing the car to the public. Although the company conducted tests, they were not willing to change the car design (Engineering Analysis Report and Initial Decision Regarding Ea00-023 33).
The case involving Firestone and Ford presents a scenario where companies disobeyed regulations and laws. The two companies were negligent to their products' deficiencies. Many people can claim that the companies acted illegally because they hid previous damage reports, complaints and other related information. However, at this time their actions were not illegal but unethical in nature. Neither of the two companies succeeded to their expected ethical responsibilities. They had been aware about the problem but still ignored to rectify it. Although the companies had many complaints and reports that warned them about the issue, they kept trying to cover it up. It is because of their ignorance that many people ended up dead and injured. The companies failed to fulfill their philanthropic and ethical roles. Additionally, it can be said that the companies acted illegally. The companies failed to send copies of test results to the relevant bodies which is a crime and an illegal act. Their lack of ethical consideration not only killed and injured many, but also brought an end to a relationship of over 100 years. The only responsibility that the companies fulfilled was their economic greed. Regardless of their role to distribute cars to consumers, the companies should have acted in a humanistic way and consider the effects of their actions (Shaw 29).
Ethics is involved with individual moral standards and ideologies. On the other hand, law deals with a society held standard and values that become enforceable in the courts. As per legal and ethical quadrant, both Firestone and Ford clearly fall within the unethical or illegal section. This is because the companies' actions displayed a disregard of business ethics. Ethical and legally abiding decisions should result into best outcomes for all parties involved. In this case, customers suffered from the companies' decisions. Ford decided to engage in document cover ups, disregarded tests and engineers' recommendations. Another illegality in the actions of the companies was violating the consumer bill of rights. According to this bill, consumers have a right to be properly informed and given the most useful information. However, the companies decided to withhold this information. Ford and Firestone acted in a way that selfishly put their own profit responsibility, a corporate duty to maximize profits. Therefore, Firestone and Ford actions can only be termed as illegal and unethical (Penenberg 68).