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Pinto Case Summary Essay

Mr. Gioia’s decisions regarding the Pinto fires highlights the disengagement from emotion often associated with business decisions. From a business stand point, decisions have to be based on facts and financial repercussions are the ultimate deciding factor in which action to pursue. If a defect in a certain make or model of car is classified as an extremely rare incident then no action will be taken. This is governed by the premise of statistical probability. Coupled with a detailed cost versus benefits analysis the decision is quickly made in these situations to not pursue recalls (Gioia, 1992, p. 381).

Furthermore, external environmental factors play a role in coursing the decision process. For example, the oil crisis in the 1970’s gave incentive for Ford Motor Company not to deal with Pinto defects as the Pinto was one of the few models Ford had on the market as a competitive gas saving model. Mr. Gioia explains from a business perspective, pulling that vehicle from the market and doing a massive recall in such an economic downturn would have been disastrous for the company. Aside from the massive financial cost to recall the Pinto’s and complete the necessary upgrades to rectify the manufacturing flaw, the shareholders would have felt the loss in the stock price drop and many employees would have been laid off in the process (Gioia, 1992, p. 382-383). However, Hooker shows us that the means are not necessarily justified by the end.

Nevertheless, evaluating Mr. Gioia’s conduct and handling of the Pinto fire cases against Hooker’s generalization test fails. Every company facing such a situation would have the reason to take similar action or in this case no action. The reason would be to avoid financial loss. However, the results are not achievable by all companies who have the same reason to pursue the same action. Thus, a major requirement under Hooker’s generalization test is not met and cannot pass the test. This is the first indicator that Mr. Gioia’s supervision of the Pinto fires situation is morally suspect (Hooker, 2011, p. 9-11).

Consequently, Dennis Gioia’s conduct in the matter does not pass the utilitarian test either. Hooker “The utilitarian principle has obvious relevance. It asks us to distribute resources so that they do the most good” (Hooker, 2011, p. 25). By viewing the scenario as a rare incident that is unlikely to be repeated on a large scale and basis the decision solely from a cost versus benefit analysis stand point the utility factor weighed was only that of the company. In order to create maximum utility for all the best option would have been some sort of modification done in production before any Pinto’s left the plant. The crash tests had correctly identified an existing manufacturing flaw that had enormous liability attached to it if left unattended (Gioia, 1992, p. 380-384).

Additionally, the virtue test fails as well. Dennis allowed himself to become emotionally detached from the cases he reviewed when deciding a course of action. He even stated that in the beginning, he would often wake up at night contemplating if he had properly covered every scenario and angle in a case to ensure lives were safeguarded (Gioia, 1992, p. 382). Subsequently, by stating this Mr. Gioia admits that he departed from his integrity and personal values and allowed the business world mentality to rule his mind. In essence, he lost sight of the virtues that made him who he was as a person. Hooker says “another way to put this is that the virtues are part of our essence; they help define who we are” (Hooker, 2011, p. 21).

Congruently, Rawl’s principles also deem the actions of Ford and Dennis Gioia as unethical. Utilizing the difference principle we can quickly see the faults in the scenario. Rawl states “Difference Principle is a policy must not create inequality unless it results in the greatest benefit for the least advantaged” (Hooker, 2011, p. 25). Applying this principle demonstrates that the action indeed created inequality because it caused the greatest suffering from the lowest levels. Assuming Dennis remained true to his virtues he would have pressed with the recall. The recall would have been costly for the company yet pass the difference principle because it would create the greatest good amongst the least advantaged. Sadly, this was not the case and Dennis sacrificed his virtues by allowing himself to be assimilated into the corporate rat race of performance (Gioia, 1992, p. 382-383).

Finally, the liberty principle as offered to us by Rawl describes that policy must result in the greatest liberty for everyone (Hooker, 2011, p. 25). Unfortunately, I cannot say that this is accurate in reflection of Dennis Gioia’s treatment of the Pinto fire problem. Liberty was taken from all the victims of the Pinto fires and the families of those victims. Immediate victims lost their lives and family members were left with a hole in their life amidst infinite questions. In retrospect, Mr. Gioia sees the error of his treatment of the Pinto problem and how he failed to do the right thing. Of course, the old saying goes “hindsight is always 20/20”.

In conclusion, Mr. Gioia allowed himself to become enthralled in the competitive corporate world. Thus, he became emotionally detached from the cases he reviewed when assessing the situation and determining the best course of action. As a result, his management of the Pinto fires was cold, calculated, and by the book for protecting the company financial interests and not the lives of consumers. Hence, the Pinto case failed each of Hooker’s rational and ethical measurements as well as Rawl’s principles of liberty and difference. Moreover, Hooker correlates the failure of the tests to morally suspect behavior.

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