Radials, Rollovers and Responsibility: An Examination of the Ford-Firestone Case

Journal of Business Ethics 56 (2):185-204 (2005)
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In August of 2000, Firestone executives initiated the second largest tire recall in U.S. history. Many of the recalled tires had been installed as original factory equipment on the popular Ford Explorer SUVs. At the time of the recall, the tires and vehicles had been linked to numerous accidents and deaths, most of which occurred when tire blowouts resulted in vehicle rollovers. While Firestones role in this case has been widely acknowledged, Ford executives have managed to deflect much of the attention away from themselves, mainly by claiming that the Firestone tires were not its product, and therefore not its responsibility. In this paper, we examine the extent to which Ford can be held morally responsible for the incidents at issue. In so doing, we develop an approach for determining when an item is a product in its own right, as opposed to a component of another product. We argue that such an analysis not only provides a better understanding of this case, but also more properly accounts for the extent to which evolutions in technology and business relationships can affect issues of moral responsibility in business contexts.

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Author Profiles

Daniel E. Palmer
Kent State University
Robert Noggle
Central Michigan University

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