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Firestone Tire and Rubber Company’s Ethics and Product Risk Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 5th, 2021

Introduction

Business ethics is a very important topic in every organization. This is illustrated as a form of ethics that is applied and normally examines the entire problems that may arise in a business environment that is ethically based. In this twenty-first century, it is essential that processes that are ethically based be enacted in an organization. Business ethics is a wide topic that is normally divided into very many sections. Some of the divisions of business ethics are general business ethics, professional ethics, ethics of human resource management, ethics of sales and marketing, and ethics of production. This paper is looking at ethics and product risk in Firestone Tires. This is in relation to ethical theories like the theory of utilitarianism and the theory of rights. (Arnold, 2006)

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company

It is not easy to discuss a product without featuring the Company that produces it. Therefore it is essential that we briefly look at Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Production is a very important process in any Company. This is because it greatly determines the type of products that are released into the market. Firestone Tires are produced by Firestone Company. (Bresly, 2005)

This Company was founded in the year 1900 by a man called Firestone Harvey. This Company used to supply tires pneumatic in nature to buggies and wagons. Later on, it ventured into automobile tires. During this era, it was a pioneer Company in the mass production of these essential products.

Ethics of production deal with Company duties in ensuring that products do not cause any harm to their users or customers. Research however reveals that every product exhibits some degree of danger and therefore the degree of permissibility is what matters. This is most cases is highly linked to preventive technologies. Other factors also include social perceptions and preventive technologies. (Martin, 1970)

When a product is defective or even dangerous, then it has automatically gone against production ethics. There are various ethical theories that are related to business operations. This will be further analyzed later in this paper. According to production ethics, a Company has to ensure products that are being released into the market are safe to use and not harmful. (Richard, 1999)

Case background

Research reveals that during the early nineteen seventies, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company produced a radial tire. The tire was called Firestone five hundred Radial. According to research carried out during this period, the entire manufacturing process carried out was actually designed in the manufacturing of tires of bias-ply type.

During this era, Firestone went through so many problems in relation to its products. This was in relation to the Firestone 500 radial. This tire had five hundred radials that were steel belted. These in the long run showed signs of diverse separations especially of the tread when used at high speeds.

Research indicates that the overall cause of this separation was never established. It is however considered that Firestone Company used bonding cement during the production process. This was used in the holding of tread that played a big role in tiring the carcass. It is thought that this could have allowed some water to go through the tire. This could have resulted in the steel wire corroding. (Martin, 1970)

By the year nineteen seventy-eight, there were investigations concerning these problems. In fact, they were publicly announced. This formal investigation was carried out by NHTSA. When NHTSA carried out the research, it found out that this was in fact a universal problem in all firestone five hundred design tires. Later on, Firestone’s director; Thomas Robertson asserted that the Company was making a tire that was inferior in quality. He, later on, said that this issue could subject the Company to a separation of belt edge of a very highly increased mileage. In relation to this issue, the Company came up with very stringent measures to control the problem. Research however indicates that these ventures were not successful. They did not totally eliminate the fundamental mistakes.

In the year nineteen seventy-seven, Firestone Company recalled back approximately four hundred thousand tires with problems. This was common at the Decatur plant that had been initiated earlier on. It was reported that this Company was not cooperative with NHTSA when this organization was probing the Firestone five hundred radial issue. Firestone defended itself by putting the whole blame on the consumer. It said that consumers did not have proper maintenance of the product and they were under-inflating them.

By late the year nineteen seventy-eight, there was recalling of approximately seven million tires belonging to Firestone Company. These were the radial five hundred tires. This was in fact the greatest recalling of tires ever witnessed. Furthermore many deaths were reported in relation to type five hundred radial tires. Thirty-four people were recorded to have passed away due to these tires. This resulted in Firestone Company being fined quite a lot of money. This was approximately $ five hundred thousand USD. It was the highest amount that had ever been fined to any corporate entity in America during this period.

Then there followed lawsuits that were later on settled out of the courts. This issue in relation to its products led to very negative publicity concerning this Company. Firestone tire and rubber Company received very negative comments made by daily newspapers, televisions, radios, and on websites. Customers were reported to give very negative comments about the Company. This was a very difficult time for Firestone Company. This resulted in the Company’s share price declining and the sales were also reported to drop drastically. (Donald, 2005)

It was evident that there was poor decision-making in this organization in relation to this crisis. Firestone’s name was greatly damaged after very many years of bad publicity. It also lost millions of money that the Company had to pay the victims that were affected by the radial five hundred tires. This resulted in its competitors taking over leadership in the manufacturing of tires. Looking at these reports there was evident product risk that was illustrated. This shows that these radial five hundred tires posed a great risk to the users even to the point of death.

Ethical analysis

According to the utilitarianism theory, in simple terms, the value of an action is greatly determined by its entire utility contribution. The overall outcome determines the worthiness of an action. In other words, the theory purports that the end justifies the means. This means that it does not matter how the process is carried out so long as a company justifies the profits and achieves its goals and objectives.

Looking at the scenario in Firestone Company, it did not adhere to the utilitarianism theory. This is because the end of its ventures in production of the radial five hundred did not result in positive returns in the Company. There were also very negative reports on the customers’ part. (Martin, 1970)

For instance, in the year nineteen seventy-eight Firestone really experienced great loss because it recalled approximately seven million tires. This was not backing the utilitarian theory. Another issue that made firestone tires go against the utilitarian theory is that they had product risk. This is whereby the radial five hundred caused the death of approximately thirty-four people. This is not ethical because a product is meant to enhance the lives of people and not shorten them through death. Human life is very precious and needs to be taken care of with great care. Therefore any product that negatively affects human life is not ethical

In the long run, Firestone Company was fined quite a lot of money. Considering utilitarian theory illustrates that the end justifies the means. The means that Firestone used to make the radial five hundred tires was not justified because of the end result. The material used for making the firestone radial five hundred tires was bonding cement which was not of the right quality. These were used to hold the entire tread and in the long run tore the carcass of the tires during use. This probably allowed water to go through the tires. Whenever the tires were used separations of tread occurred when used at high speeds.

Analyzing this issue in relation to utilitarianism theory, then Firestone’s actions are not justified because the end was awful. This was evident because the manager in Firestone tire and rubber Company asserted that they were making an inferior quality product. According to the utilitarianism theory, the essence of the action is to produce the ultimate good.

This was not however experienced in firestone’s radial five hundred tires. This is because; instead of resulting in the overall good, it produced bad results. According to the utilitarianism theories, an action is ethical and justified if it results in happiness. Analyzing the effects of firestone radial five hundred tires show that it resulted in the deaths of very many human beings. Death is a very painful thing that is not embraced by all. Therefore instead of the Company producing happiness, it resulted in pain and great sorrow. This is against the utilitarian theory. (Bresly, 2005)

The Company seems to have put its individual interests first and not the interests of its customers. This is illustrated even in the way that they dealt with the issue. Instead of accepting the blame Firestone tire and rubber Company transferred the blame back to its customers. They alleged that their customers are the ones that did not use the product appropriately yet they are the ones who used inferior quality material during the production process of firestone radial five hundred tires. From another angle of reasoning, one has to realize that we are living in a very competitive world. Every Company aims at making profits and in this case, this is what happened to Firestone Company.

There are high chances that the Company did not expect the tires to be of poor quality and therefore they don’t deserve to be sued by the customers. Yet at the same time it is expected that before a product is launched into the market, the Company will carry out preliminary research to ensure that it is of the right quality. It is however very essential that one realizes that in as much as the utilitarianism theory talks of the ultimate good, this can be relative. This is because many arguments have been made by scholars in relation to the various accounts of good. What is good to one person may not necessarily be good to another person. (Donald, 2005)

The rights theory also illustrates very many rights therein. There are claim rights, obligation rights, immunity rights, and liberty rights among others. Looking at the scenario concerning firestone’s five hundred radial tires, it is very clear that customers were negatively affected in one way or the other. They, therefore, had the claim rights to claim their damages from Firestone tire and rubber Company after using their tires.

Research indicates that customers who used firestone radial five hundred tires ended up even losing their lives. Of which they claimed compensation from the organization. Firestone Company at one time incurred a loss of approximately $ five hundred thousand USD. The Company also experienced great loss through recalling its products.

Analysis of this case indicates that the Company had the liberty right to produce the products that they want. It is however not good to produce products that harm the end-user. Firestone tire and rubber Company had the right to use the materials that they wanted.

Further analysis shows that the Company does not have an immunity right to be scrutinized by external bodies. That is why NHTSA firestone tires and found out that this was affecting the radial five hundred products. The Company however has the obligation right to produce good quality products that are not harmful to the users. (Arnold, 2006)

Conclusion

Business ethics are quite essential in any business setup. This is in line with human resource management, production, and also sales and marketing. Firestone tire and rubber Company was founded in the year 1900 by Firestone Harvey. In the early seventies, the Company produced radial 500 tires that were the center of great controversy. This was because they had risks in relation to the customers that were using them. It was evident that the Company produced sub-standard quality products. This was established after research was carried out by NHTSA In relation to radial 500 tires produced by the Company. Analysis of the scenario concerning radial 500 tires shows that the product did not adhere to the utilitarianism theory. This is because the utilitarianism theory states that the end of an action justifies the means.

That is an action result in ultimate good and happiness then the action is good. Actions taken by Firestone Company did not result in the good of the Company nor its customers. This is because it caused the deaths of many people. Considering the rights theory, the customers had the claim right for compensation of the loss that they incurred in using the product. The Company however did not have the immunity right to scrutiny from other external bodies like NHTSA. It is however arguable that the Company had the liberty right to produce what it wants and desires. Therefore the product did not adhere to utilitarianism theory but to an extent adhered to rights theory

References

Arnold, F. (2006): Products Safety Standards. Web.

Bresly, F. (2005): Products Safety Standards. Web.

Donald, N. (2005): History of Firestone. Web.

Martin, M. (1970): A Utilitarian Kantian Principle; Philosophical Studies; 21; pp. 90-91.

Richard, G. (1999): Business Ethics; New York; Macmillan Press.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Firestone Tire and Rubber Company's Ethics and Product Risk." September 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/firestone-tire-and-rubber-companys-ethics-and-product-risk/.

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