The products before all of these accidents
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 people’s 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 90’s. 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 world’s 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 the tires. As a result, this controversy between these two companies ended up in the brake up of a long business relationship.
Is true to the facts as organizational members know them
No, According to ABC News reports, “During congressional hearings, Firestone claimed that the tire problems were the result of repair problems, road hazards and operating conditions. Representatives from Ford pointed out that nearly 3 million Goodyear tires that were used on Ford Explorers did not seem to be having a similar problem.”(http://cee.citadel.edu) So it was obvious then that Firestone wasn’t telling the truth about the tires. The evidence showed that they knew the real problem of the tires but they failed to report it. Instead when they got caught they decided to lie about it.
Did Ford and Firestone act ethically in communicating the problem?
No, they failed to provide vital information about their defected products to consumers. As a result the community and society on the whole suffered the consequences of the unethical conduct of these two companies. For instance, Firestone’s employees have suffered from the recall and from its mistakes as jobs were slashed in the United States and stock prices tumbled.
In addition, they violated the public trust. Consumers expected Ford/Firestone to produce safe products. They also expected to be provided with accurate information so that they could decide whether or not to purchase their vehicles and tires. But they failed. Therefore,
Ford and Firestone suffered severe consequences for violating the consumers’ rights. In the United States, consumers have the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, the right to be heard, and the right to privacy. These two companies violated two of these rights. They violated the consumer’s right to safety by selling cars and tires that were not safe and they also violated the consumers’ right to be informed.
It seemed then that Ford and Firestone failed to meet its ethical obligations. That is, they didn’t report safety related defect information to government agencies and they also concealed important information related to vehicle safety from the public. As a result, the consumers suffered the consequences of their unethical conduct. Many people died because of the defect in these tires. In fact, these accidents would have not occurred if both companies have solved the problem immediately.