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Old 01-10-2013, 12:26 AM   #1
Just Tom
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What every Focus owner needs to know about the Ford Pinto

Since joining this forum and recently having purchased a Focus Ti, I've had an opportunity to become familiar with some of the stories shared by other members regarding there personal experience with their cars. Obviously the most notable stories are situations involving premature clutch replacement, reoccurring DCT failures and those individuals who've completely lost hope, given up and either sold or traded-in. Then there are those who file lemon law claims...but that's another Oprah for a different day. Throughout it all, I've noticed there's a reoccurring theme that's often repeated by users on this forum who share their stories; dealers who claim, "can't duplicate customer concern" or "no problem found." If the stories on this forum are any indication, the dreaded "no problem found" scenario has reached epidemic proportions. I too experienced this myself when I took my Focus in after only 700 miles when the car began shuddering, shifting erratically and lurching forward. This behavior seems to mimic the problems other users have had with their DCT.

The point to this is, users on this forum complain that Ford isn't listening or that they don't care or use catch phrases like "no problem found" to avoid making costly repairs. Well the truth is, in my opinion anyway, that all manufacturers try to avoid covering warrantable items if they think they can get away with it. As I've stated in other threads before, stalling or delaying is a "tactic" that is used by all the manufacturers to mitigate potential financial loss. Recently, while posting in a separate thread where I discussed lemon law claims and how manufacturers ignore requests as long as possible until lawyers get involved, I referenced the Ford Pinto recall which involved 500 deaths (by some estimates) due to gas tanks which were prone to exploding upon rear impact. There were several wrongful death lawsuits filed and damages in the millions of dollars were awarded to the litigants. In one such case, the punitive damages were $125,000,000. Also of significant note was the case of: State of Indiana v. Ford Motor Co., where Ford was indicted on criminal homicide charges; the first of its kind for an American corporation during that time. GM had a similar problem with exploding gas tanks on some of their side-saddle gas tanks found on Chevy and GMC trucks which resulted in more deaths, more lawsuits and more court damages awarded.

In both these cases, the manufactures knew about the dangers, but opted to continue building the vehicles without making any changes in favor of profit. Memos and depositions in the Ford case and in the investigation of GM by the NHTSA it was discovered that the manufacturers used "cost to benefit analysis" in making their decision NOT to make important safety changes which in the case of the Pinto, would have only cost an additional $11.00 per unit, saving potentially hundreds of lives in the process. Ford calculated the cost of settling wrongful death lawsuits (approx. $200k per death) as a cheaper way to go as opposed to making safety changes. Well...that was then and this is now and I think we can all agree that the quality of American automobiles has improved tremendously since the 70's and 80's. Also automotive safety is probably the best it's ever been in all the years of automotive manufacturing combined. Cars are much safer without a doubt.

So what's the point of this? It's simple. While the cars themselves are better built and safer overall, there's still room for defects. Let's face it, even with today's modern technology, defects still happen. We need to look no further than the huge public relations nightmare Toyota experienced a couple years ago with unintended acceleration on certain Prius and other hybrid models. A settlement was reached where Toyota has agreed to pay $1.1 billion, which is in addition to the cost of all the recalls. So why do you suppose Ford is ignoring the DCT issues that so many have complained about instead of issuing a recall? Well....I think you probably already know the answer to that.

Food for thought people....food for thought.

http://www.engineering.com/Library/A...ord-Pinto.aspx

http://www.motherjones.com/environme...ploding-pickup


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Old 01-10-2013, 12:38 AM   #2
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Nevermind the facts that the "cost-benefit" analysis was derived from the interaction of the Government with a few government liaisons within the regulatory body and not something made up by Ford in the Pinto case, as well as the thing that they were being harped on for the fuel system integrity was initially dealing with a roll over and not a rear impact in the first place its easy to see the smear campaigns waged against Ford specifically when none of the other subcompacts were that much safer, if at all in that era.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:20 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suss6052 View Post
Nevermind the facts that the "cost-benefit" analysis was derived from the interaction of the Government with a few government liaisons within the regulatory body and not something made up by Ford in the Pinto case, as well as the thing that they were being harped on for the fuel system integrity was initially dealing with a roll over and not a rear impact in the first place its easy to see the smear campaigns waged against Ford specifically when none of the other subcompacts were that much safer, if at all in that era.
Suss,

Ford did use a "cost-benefit" analysis. In fact Ford cited their cost-benefit analysis as part of their legal defense (see chart below). Not only that, during testing/development stage, Ford crash tested 11 Pintos, 8 of which had test results which resulted in "potentially catastrophic situations". Basically these were fireballs. Accidents waiting to happen.

I should note however that Ford was cleared of any criminal wrong doing and that no laws were broken. It amounted to a finding by the NHTSA that the cars were deemed unsafe and a mandatory recall was issued on 1.5 million cars. Also it was a huge publicity nightmare, to say the least. Pinto production ended shortly thereafter.

You're probably right about other sub-compacts not being much safer. In general, I think that with very few exceptions safety wasn't at the top of the list for most manufactures. However, the early Toyota's, Datsun's and Honda's didn't have these issues, at least not on the scale of the Pinto. If they did, I think those companies would have faced the same scrutiny and loss of reputation. Another point I think we agree on is, filing criminal (homicide) charges against Ford was unfounded and the result of a well orchestrated smear campaign. As you probably remember the Chevy Corvair suffered a similar fate when Ralph Nader went on the attack. Independent studies eventually cleared the Corvair's name as it was deemed to be on par with other competitors with regard to safety in scenarios where the car is pushed to extremes.

At the end of the day, I think it all came down to a calculated risk for Ford when they produced the Pinto. I'd say, they lost that bet. GM faired much better.

Exhibit One: Ford's Cost/Benefit Analysis
Benefits and Costs Relating to Fuel Leakage
Associated with the Static Rollover
Test Portion of FMVSS 208
Benefits
Savings: 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, 2100 burned vehicles
Unit Cost: $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, $700 per vehicle
Total Benefit: 180 x ($200,000) + 180 x ($67,000) + 2100 x ($700) = $49.5 Million
Costs
Sales: 11 million cars, 1.5 million light trucks
Unit Cost: $11 per car, $11 per truck
Total Cost: 11,000,000 x ($11) + 1,500,000 x ($ I 1) = $137 Million
From Ford Motor Company internal memorandum: "Fatalities Associated with Crash-Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires." Source: Douglas Birsch and John H. Fielder, THE FORD PINTO CASE: A STUDY IN APPLIED ETHICS. BUSINESS, AND TECHNOLOGY. p. 28.1994.

source: http://www.wfu.edu/~palmitar/Law&Val...ett-pinto.html
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:22 AM   #4
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Just Tom,

Do you really want to be known as a blowhard? Because that is exactly where your going. Please read the following:

http://www.pointoflaw.com/articles/T...Pinto_Case.pdf

Yes it is long. Articles published in Rutgers publications tend to be. But it proves that the entire Pinto "exploding gastank" was hysteria, completely unfounded.

Every automaker does cost-benefit analysis. If an automaker actually built in safety with no cost benefit analysis then cars would come equipped with brethalizers, speed limters that would prevent the car from going over 35Mph, gigantic foam bumpers front and rear, and so many airbags that if the car hit anything all the airbags inflating would cause the body of the car to explode off of it.

The fact is that the driver behind the wheel has 80% of the control over whether the car gets into an accident or not. The Pinto was a cheap-as-sin car, and purchased by many young 20-somethings who haven't learned to drive safely. So it tended to get banged up a lot. But the study cited - done long after the hysteria died down - showed that the exploding gas tank was a myth.
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:15 AM   #5
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At the risk of sounding like a blowhard, I'm surprised that ANYONE would be surprised by the post at all. The same post can be said for almost any industry on the planet. The bigger the company, the more likely (it seems) that they ignore most complaints until they are forced too. Social media is RIFE with compaints about welfare recipients and how they spend all their welfare check on iphones and the latest androids out there, but the auto industry is one of the largest recipients of welfare out there. If you REALLY want to get Ford to listen to complaints, you HAVE to get the government and lawyers to force them to listen by threatening them.
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Tom View Post
Exhibit One: Ford's Cost/Benefit Analysis
Benefits and Costs Relating to Fuel Leakage
Associated with the Static Rollover
Test Portion of FMVSS 208
Benefits
Savings: 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, 2100 burned vehicles
Unit Cost: $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, $700 per vehicle
Total Benefit: 180 x ($200,000) + 180 x ($67,000) + 2100 x ($700) = $49.5 Million
Costs
Sales: 11 million cars, 1.5 million light trucks
Unit Cost: $11 per car, $11 per truck
Total Cost: 11,000,000 x ($11) + 1,500,000 x ($ I 1) = $137 Million
From Ford Motor Company internal memorandum: "Fatalities Associated with Crash-Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires." Source: Douglas Birsch and John H. Fielder, THE FORD PINTO CASE: A STUDY IN APPLIED ETHICS. BUSINESS, AND TECHNOLOGY. p. 28.1994.

source: http://www.wfu.edu/~palmitar/Law&Val...ett-pinto.html
Quote:
Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.
Business woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?
Narrator: You wouldn't believe.
Business woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?
Narrator: A major one.


This is all this reminds me of
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Old 01-10-2013, 12:44 PM   #7
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Governments do exactly the same kind of calculations. There are multiple parts of the US bureaucracy that calculate the value of a human life (coming up with different numbers, naturally), and that information is used to decide whether or not to spend money on things like road improvements or guard rails.

You might not like that approach, but it's simply not true that "if it saves just one life", some change or activity is therefore worth any amount of money and effort to implement. And failing to exert the maximum possible effort to prevent any detectable problem is not just limited to evil giant corporations and their filthy profit motive.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by rambleon84 View Post
This is all this reminds me of
My very first thought as well.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:36 PM   #9
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Airplane manufacturers have been doing this for years. The DC-10 is a great study on plane manufacturers and airlines using cost-benefit analysis to determine if they fix a known problem before they're forced to. The real tragedy with that example is that the DC-10's first fix didn't even work...because the bean counters had a say in what the fix should be. The contrast between the DC-10 and the Pinto is that the DC-10 was actually a very good product with the exception of one door lock. Such a small piece brought down such a great plane.

Ford, like Toyota will pull every stunt they can to keep from having to admit a problem with the DCT. Toyota did this with the acceleration issue, just as they did it with the V6 sludging problem, but in the end they wound up paying for both.

It's time for Ford to own up to the design issues in the DCT and start their folks working on a fix. With an increasing number of Focuses on the road, with more and more of them passing that magical 12,000 mile mark, things are only going to get more crowded at the service departments. I, for one and glad to be rid of the DCT, and to a lesser extent, the MFT. I don't want to be a part of the problem, or a part of the fix. This could drag out for a very long time.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:31 PM   #10
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You lost me as soon as I read "all manufacturers try to avoid covering warrantable items if they think they can get away with it." Not sure what your background is (automotively speaking), but in the/my service advisor world, we get paid either warranty or customer pay for work. Anything I can "legitimately" bill the manufacturer for, I certainly will. A no problem found is generally a lose/lose deal. That line of thinking runs right up there with people who think cash gets them a better deal buying a new car.
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