It's hard to believe that what went wrong with these cars was possible, but it was. And deadly. We know that auto manufacturers' goal is to make money but we don't expect them to deliberately sacrifice safety. These vehicles prove that assumption false.
1971 – 1976 Ford Pinto, 1975-76 Mercury Bobcats
The gasoline tank was in the rear of the vehicle and wasn't reinforced, therefore susceptible to exploding into flame in the event of a rear-end collision. What made it worse was Ford's internal research showing the estimated cost to repair the defect ($121 million) less than the cost of paying victims ($50 million). Ultimately, 27 people were found to have lost their lives due to rear-end crashes causing exploding gas tanks in Pintos.
Chevrolet Pickups (1973-1983)
These pickups stored fuel in 20-gallon tanks on each side of the cab, creating the likelihood that a T-bone accident would turn the ride into an inferno. Known as “Side Saddle” gas tanks, the dangerous positioning of the ignitable tanks caused more than 2,000 fire crash deaths from 1973 – 2009 (Center for Auto Safety). Rather than being located within the frame, the tanks were mounted outside the frame rails. Just as disturbing as the choice for fuel capacity over safety was GM's cost-benefit analysis which concluded that no more than $2.20 should be spent per vehicle to prevent a fire crash death.
1982 – 1987 Audi 5000
This Audi was susceptible to “Sudden acceleration incidents.” The definition of sudden acceleration incidents? “unintended, unexpected high-power acceleration from a stationary position or a very low initial speed accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness. Sudden acceleration incidents led to 700 accidents and six deaths.
The Ford “Exploder”
There were two issues with Fords during the mid-'90s and into the 2000s. The first was the cruise control switch. This switch, which turns the cruise control off when the brake pedal is pressed, was wired to be “hot” all the time. Unfortunately, this led to the switch leaking, overheating and cars catching on fire. Recalls on the part include 1995-2003 Windstar, 2000-2003 Ford Excursion diesel, 1993-1997 and 1999-2003 F-Super Duty Diesel, 1992-2003 Econoline, 1995-2002 Explorer, 1995-1997 and 2001-2003 Ranger, some 1994 F53 motor homes and 1995-2002 Mercury Mountaineer. The second issue which plagued Ford's reputation was tire separation. The ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT Firestone tires installed on new Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers and Mazda Navajos suffered from high rates of failure. Namely, the tread would peel off and separate from the steel belt below. When this occurred, the SUVs would often roll over. Approximately 119 deaths occurred due to these rollover accidents. Firestone blamed Ford for the SUV's instability and Ford blamed Firestone for defective tires.
As these auto defects show, auto manufacturers cannot be trusted to count the value of human life as important as their profits. While these companies may have gone on to create and produce safe and reliable modes of transportation, the history cannot be forgotten.