The Pinto Memo: "It’s Cheaper to let them Burn!”

Today, most people are aware that the late great Ford Pinto was widely considered to be a rolling death trap during its reign of terror from 1970 to 1980. This is mainly due to allegations that if the car were rear-ended, the doors would jam shut and the bomb-like rear gas tank would explode upon impact. Critics argue that Ford knew that the car was a potential death-trap before they released it to the public in 1970. Instead, the auto maker recalled the cars for safety retrofits. They came to that decision by performing a cost-benefit analysis and discovered that it would be cheaper to pay off any possible lawsuits that emanated from victims and their families than it would be to fix the problem. Figuring that the cost of modifying the fuel tanks on 11 million vehicles would cost $11 per car, the company would have had to shell out $121 million. On the other hand, assuming there would be an average of 2,100 incidents with 180 burn deaths at $200,000 per death, 180 serious burns injuries at $67,000 per injury, and 2,100 burned out vehicles at $700 per vehicle, the cost to pay off lawsuits came to a much lower $49 million. Unfortunately for Ford, a memo was leaked revealing this information and their preference to "Let them burn!" In reality, nearly 9,000 people burned to death in flaming wrecks and tens of thousands were badly burned and scarred for life. It's estimated that over 10 million new unsafe vehicles were released, until public outcry and various legal battles forced Ford to issue a recall. In the end, the public came up with an unofficial Pinto slogan: “The barbecue that seats 4.”