Ford’s Business Ethics in Question
The Ford-Firestone Brawl, a case presentation written by John R. Boatright in 2006, discussed the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate rift that ended the business relationship that was established almost a century ago by Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Here, several factors were offered as the reasons for their disagreement, most apparent of which are the accidents that occurred as a result of miscalculations, both with Ford’s Explorer SUV and Firestone’s ATX and ATX II tires.
Based on the presentations and arguments presented by the author, it truly seemed that although both companies had their own part in Explorer’s fatal accidents, Ford was largely at fault, perhaps in their hopes of maximizing their revenues that eventually resulted to an end of the century-old business partnership.
The clearest indication that points to Ford’s continuation of their Explorer SUV production despite of its apparent instability, as proven by its own studies, is the lure of a major market share in SUV sales. This can be evidenced by the staggering amount it would cost to replace “13 million Firestone tires at the cost of $3 billion” (Boatright, 2006, p. 307). This argument alone would be enough for Ford to go on with the Explorer SUV despite of the deficiencies in its design.
Likewise, since Ford had already decided on using their existing Ranger pick up truck assembly line as the same ones to assemble the Explorer, they have already reached a stage wherein abandoning their plans for the Explorer would be highly improbable, thus necessitating them instead to rely on modifications, such as lowering the tire pressure, to serve as solutions for their problems.
Likewise, although unstated in Boatright’s case presentation, it is highly probable that Ford’s esteemed reputation as being one of America’s premier automotive manufacturers led them to pursue a design that was flawed from its very conception, as evidenced by its prototype in the middle part of the 1980’s, the UN-46, that “showed the vehicle to be unstable” (Boatright, 2006, p. 306). If this were truly the case, then Ford was too much immersed with their image on the global market that they chose to forego with the most important aspect in any vehicle—passenger safety.
Prior to their business rift with Firestone, Ford was also involved in a predicament situation with Goodyear in 1979. Basically, it involved Goodyear’s opting to disagree with the terms dictated by Ford, that they supply tires that are below quality standards in order to meet the prices offered by the said company. From this previous experience with Goodyear alone, Firestone should have been aware that Ford will always be willing to sacrifice the quality and general safety of their vehicles just to make their prices at par with other competitors in the market.
It is indeed an unfortunate eventuality that “203 deaths and over 700 injuries” (Boatright, 2006, p. 306) had to happen before they were able to realize Ford’s unethical business practice. In this respect, it is then safe to declare that Ford’s reiteration that the Explorer’s problem lies with the tires that Firestone had supplied is mostly based on their need to maintain the respect that the majority of the buying public holds for them.
Perhaps their decision to absorb the expenses for the recall of over 13 million Firestone tires that cost $3 billion is their way of ensuring the public that they are indeed a company that is focused towards the safety of their patrons, when in fact it had been very clear, based on the evidences presented by Boatright, that their corporate actions and decisions speak of the contrary.
This can be further augmented by the fact that they “refused a request to conduct a joint investigation into the safety of the vehicle” (Boatright, 2006, p. 307), which by all accounts and purposes could have completely cleared them of any corporate misdemeanor, if indeed their principles are in tune with the venerated ethics in business.
Reference Boatright, J. R. (2006). Ethics and the Conduct of Business. Chicago, USA: Prentice Hall