Economy and simplicity became the name of the begin around the ’70s, what with the rise of imports pulverizing the automotive industry and forcing the American-made market to make some kind of move. So Ford came out with the Ford Pinto in 1971. Big mistake (at least in the long run).
Honestly, the Ford Pinto Wasn’t a Bad Car at All!
It seemed like everyone wanted a Ford Pinto back then! Apparently a car named after a bean was kind of cute. In its first year of sale, Ford made a pretty penny on the bean with 328,275 vehicles sold. There was just one slight problem: Ford know there was a problem with the Pinto but neglected to tell anyone about it.
Here was the problem with the Ford Pinto: it had a fuel filler neck that could easily break away and poke a nasty hole or two in the fuel tank. This naturally would only occur during a rear-end collision, though, but in that day and age when crashes were common, this didn’t say much for the Ford Pinto as a reliable vehicle. As a result, as the fuel filler neck would puncture the tank, this would then spray fuel into the passenger compartment and cause a nasty fire. You’d think Ford would’ve been wise enough to do something about that before launching the Ford Pinto into sale….
Here’s Ford’s reasoning for not addressing the issue they knew would occur even before Ford Pintos would even go into production — it was just too expensive to fix! We call that quite the auto scandal possibly even rivaling that of the most recent Volkswagen-gate going on. But it’s all relative. The fact was a fuel system upgrade would’ve added $11 to the cost of each car. Not a lot at first glance, but when you’re producing thousands of vehicles for sale, well….
Still, a shield to protect the tank from rupturing would’ve easily cost Ford only a measly dollar, but what the heck do we know? We’re just Profile Reviews. We call it like we see it.
So Did Ford End up Coughing Up the Money to Remedy the Situation?
Yes, and no. You can see Ford slapping his own forehead with this one, as a memo back in 1973 found its way to the media basically spelling out the estimate for how many deaths to expect annually due to the defect in the fuel filler neck, and it wasn’t pretty — it basically said it would be cheaper for the company to just ‘ignore’ the problem versus fixing it, and by 1978, they felt the public sting and outrage as Ford went ahead and recalled 1.5MM of those Ford Pintos, along with the Mercury Bobcat, just to make those modifications to the fuel system.
How bad was the outcry that forced Ford to succumb? Well, when facing 900 drivers dying as a result of the fuel system flaw and millions of dollars in coming civil suits, it turned out that the memo was wrong. Ford spent way more money than what it would’ve cost just to make those changes. You live and you learn.