10 Automotive Scandals That Continue To Affect The Industry

A Ford Pinto on fire. Matt Ford

The automotive industry has gone through a number of dark times throughout its history. Cars with problems, negligent auto companies, or company policies deliberately aimed at destroying other companies is nothing new. It seems that it has always been company policy to worry more about profits than people, whatever the business. Read on to see how Ford was indicted for homicide, how GM set the auto industry back years, and how one company sold cars that it was never able to build.

Image from a crash test performed with a 1971 Chevrolet Impala and 1972 Ford Pinto. CNN Money

Ford Indicted for Negligent Homicide

Ford has been rife with scandals, nearly since the very beginning. One of the most glaring scandals in its long history was that of the Ford Pinto. In 1971, the American auto industry was struggling against the tide of auto imports that were starting to dominate in the industry. In response, Ford came out with the Pinto, a small car that started out as a huge success selling over 328,000 cars in the first year. The problem with the Pinto was discovered not long after, and it unleashed a terrifying scandal that proved the Ford Motor Company only cared about the bottom line.

Before the car even went into production it was discovered that in a rear-end collision, the fuel tank of the car would rupture and spray fuel into the back seat. The fuel would then ignite causing the car to burst into flames. In 1973, a memo was leaked by the media and it showed that Ford’s number crunchers had done the math. To fix the problem would have been $12 per car which, according to the memo, would be costlier than paying out the lawsuits from the expected deaths and injuries.

In 1977, Mother Jones published an expose that proved Ford knew about the problem before the car went into production. By 1978, with the public rallying against them, Ford recalled all 1.5 million Pintos (and the Mercury Bobcat) and made the necessary repairs.

Not only did Ford end up making the repairs, but the lawsuit estimates by the number crunchers proved to be very wrong. With estimates of 900 deaths and numerous injuries, Ford ended up paying hundreds of millions in lawsuits. Even worse, after three teenage girls were killed, Ford was indicted for negligent homicide in 1978 but the company was acquitted.

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  • Charles Johnson

    It would be very interesting to know where the source material came from for some of these stories about the cars.

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      Any stories in particular? I could post them for you.

  • peter421sd

    What about the Toyota scandal,that was the worst

    • Scott Marlowe

      I’ve driven an Avalon that had issues with throttle surge. Pretty freaking unsettling. It was a friend’s car and I will never drive it again.

  • Louis Brunyansky

    Through the 80’s and 90’s I worked on mostly foreign cars. The Audi had a complicated throttle cable system with 3 pivot points on the throttle cable. After several years, corrosion could build up and the cable would stick when you hit the gas,but it didn’t self apply, and you could stop it with the brake, it just took longer than you would like. I always lubed the pivot points for the cable when ever I worked on one. Now I did have a Chevy Camaro with a stick shift, that I bought used in 1970. I only had it for a day or two and was stopped at a red light on a hill, so I gave it some extra gas and the pedal dropped out from under my foot and the rear tires broke loose. That gave me enough time to steer around the car ahead of me and go through a gas station at 50 mph before I pushed in the clutch and heard a thump and got control back. The left motor mount would go out and allow the motor to pull the throttle to the floor. A few days later I found a safety recall.

  • Richard R Solberg

    CBS fake news site ..even back then , along with NBC on their piece on the Pinto , they had a model rocket engine ignite to make certain that the car would burst into flames … Pinto was bad design but not every rear end would result in fire ..