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Old 07 March 2008, 02:42 PM
Ali Infree's Avatar
Ali Infree Ali Infree is offline
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Location: Wheeling, WV
Posts: 2,588

The OP talks a lot about the hubris of TV networks creating stories by improving the visuals in dishonest ways. That deserves a look on a separate topic. The run-up to the Iraq war which started nearly five years ago is another example of riding the waves to cheap ratings victories three months each year.

However, the Ford Pinto was dangerous. A project of Lee Iaccoca's to take away the VW Bug market, it was meant to sell for $1995 new. And sell, it did. The fact is that fuel tank would be pushed into the four bolts of the differential and potentially break and spark into a fire. A memo written within Ford discussed this problem and decided that spending $4 to put a plate between the tank and the differential would cost more than any possible lawsuits from accidents.

TV news did not cause the problem, but burnt victims and this memo from Ford certainly did. There were a number of large (for the time) verdict awards that resulted from Pinto fires. If Ford had countervailing information, then why did they not use it to avoid the cost and the publicity of these lawsuits? Another allegation not dealt with in the OP, a rear end crash could jam the doors, preventing crash victims from exiting the car, burning or not.

I have questions about the number of deaths cited as well--thousands did not die, but it seems that in 1991 when this law review article came out--the Maxima was a relatively new Nissan import. How many people had died in fires in Maximas by 1991?

Another important irony is that Ford owned the patent on a self-sealing gas tank that would have saved lives. But it would have cost more. At some level, I am amazed by the changes in our discussions of car safety. I myself will never live in a snowy environment and not have ABS brakes, a definite safety advantage. How many of us would not prefer to drive a car with the best safety features?

What is prompting the current OP? In the 1980s, the federal government, under Reagan, withdrew from many consumer protection activities, leaving these areas to private trial lawyers and state attorneys general.

Al "let's try it again" Infree
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