A good example of the lack of ethical standards in management communications was conducted by the Ford Motor Company in the seventies. Ford produced a car called the Pinto from 1971 to 1980. After the car was produced, it was discovered that the cars had a safety flaw that caused the car to explode upon impact. Ford Motor Company recognized the flaw and decided to not resolve the issue with the car. Ford conducted a cost-benefit analysis of payouts from lawsuits resulting from accidents and deaths versus recalling the car and resolving the issue (Dardis & Zent, 1982). Ford initially decided to make no public announcements about the flaw or issue a recall. As a result of the public not being advised and Ford not remediating the safety defect, people died. After it was in the news that Ford was being taken to court for these issues, McSweeney (1980) states “A public hearing, which was to have been held on June 14, was precluded by Ford’s announcement five days before that, preparatory to making fuel system modification, it was recalling the 1.5 million cars – not, Ford emphasized, because it felt the Pinto was in any way hazardous, but merely as a means to “to end public concern that has resulted from criticism of the fuel systems in these vehicles”” (p. 1548). Baack (2012) defines mistruths as “Deliberate mistruths occur when an individual or corporation seeks to deceive the public or another person through the use of false information” (Section 8.2, para.3).
This was unethical for Ford to not communicate the safety concerns to the public after it was discovered. Ford calculated that it was more profitable to not initially communicate safety concerns. Organizations have an ethical obligation to communicate any defects in their products that could cause serious harm.
Baack, D. (2012). Management communication. Retrieved from https://ashford.content.edu
Dardis, R. & Zent, C. (1982). The economics of pinto recall. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 16(2), 261-277. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6606.1982.tb00175.x
McSweeney, W. (1980). Reckless homicide? Ford’s pinto trial Lee Patrick Strobel. American Bar Association Journal, 66(12), 1547-1548. Retrieved from JSTOR Journals
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