Ethics: Bridgestone/Firestone inc. Tire Recall 2000

Ethics: Bridgestone/Firestone inc. Tire Recall 2000

Introduction

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was founded in 1904 by Harvey Firestone to manufacture automobile tires. During the establishment, it was located in Akron, Ohio. The first automobile pneumatic or inflatable tires were manufactured and put on Ford Motor Company’s iconic model in 1908. Since then, the company has been manufacturing top quality tires recording huge amounts of sales within United States. The founder, Harvey Firestone was a close friend to Henry Ford. This played a key role as they developed and sustained a business relationship enabling Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to make thousands of sales to Ford. The company has been manufacturing and distributing tires across United States among other international regions.

In 1990, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was acquired by Bridgestone Inc a firm located in United States as a subsidiary of a Tokyo based corporation for USD 2.6 billion. The corporation has been striving to produce automobile tires effectively and efficiently to safeguard the lives of people relying on the products for day to day transportations. This is because Bridgestone and Firestone Inc acknowledge at least eighty percent of transportation involves the use of cars and buses requiring quality automobile tires. Thus, the corporation ensures ethics allied to quality and safety are respected, upheld, and enhanced to avoid mistakes resulting to devastating accidents that can cause innocent consumers to lose their lives (Dana & Ferrell, 2003).

Ethics refer to moral principles applied among people from diverse cultures and backgrounds to enhance cohesion. Business ethics are therefore professional moral principles ensuring corporations conduct operations and functions while paying respect to the organizations and individuals needs, wants, demands, desires, and expectations. Firestone Tire and Rubber Company however violated business ethics when it distributed automobile tires resulting to various accidents accountable to multiple deaths in United States. This led Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to be held morally accountable for the events involving SUVs rolling off the roads injuring and killing drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Ford however attempted to blame Firestone by claiming the accidents were mainly attributed to tire blowouts. They asserted that the ethical issues arising ought to be addressed by Firestone as they accidents were not due to problems with the vehicles rather than the tires (Lawrence, 2003). Conversely, Firestone asserted that the accidents were due to the vehicles’ lacking stability hence, not due to the tires. This essay will therefore focus on the ethical standards maintained by major tire companies that were violated by Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (Daniel, 2013).

The Tire Recall (9th August 2000)

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a letter in 2000 to Firestone and Ford requesting details about the high number of accidents relating to tire failure across United States. This prompted Ford to conduct an investigation. The results of the investigation discovered that, various motor vehicles’ treads including those on Wilderness AT and 15 inch ATX and ATX II models were peeling off hence, the high rates being recorded in tire failure. It was reported that, when the tires failed it resulted to the vehicles rolling over which often led to loss of lives of the occupants.

Extensive conversations with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Ford, and Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company led to the recall of six and a half million tires. The annunciation was produced on 9th August 2000 with the recall commencing in Western and Southern States. These areas were targeted as it was believed that the hot weather conditions were attributing to the tire blowouts. For example, The St. Petersburg Times reported at least forty one persons had died in road accident with vehicle tires confirmed to have been manufactured by Firestone across Florid since 1997. This affirmed it was vital for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to address the alarming number of deaths associated with road accidents due to faulty automobile tires (McDonald, 2006).

Firestone was also faced with fifty law suits and federal investigations in relation to faulty automobile vehicles resulting to road accidents that were injuring and killing innocent consumers. It was vital to determine if Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone had been aware of the problems and the amount of time taken to address and resolve the issues. Bridgestone/Firestone claimed the accidents were being attributed to the design of the vehicles especially the Explorer as it was prone to tipping and rolling over. The corporation however did not deny that the automobile tires could also be contributing to the rise in road accidents.  Ford affirmed it would replace all Wilderness AT tires even those that were not covered by the recall at its own expense. The total number of tires covered by Ford amounted to thirteen million tires. This declaration severed the relationship between Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone resulting to an end of a business relationship that had lasted for more than one hundred years (Matthew, 2013).

Theoretical Importance of Ethics in the Automobile Industry

According to Leonard Evans (2008), more than million people lose their lives due to road accidents while others are injured and permanently disabled. The victims range in age affecting both genders as majority of people relies on motor vehicles to fulfill their transportation needs. It is however vital to note there are other factors that lead to road accidents. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal substances, or drugs against the doctor’s prescription can also result to a road accident. Violation of ethics by automobile companies however has led to accidents that could have been prevented hence, preserved lives and prevented innocent consumers from sustaining body damages. The automobile industry therefore has the ethical and moral responsibility of ensuring the products and services distributed to consumers are high of high quality and safe. They should not pose more harm than the inherent danger a user is likely to face due to individual mistakes. The main ethical issue automobile companies are required to address involve fulfilling their obligation to insure the products and services to avoid the consumers facing unreasonable harm (Catherine, 2010).

As a result, they should ensure vehicles and tires being advertised are glorified to encourage safe and responsible behavioral uses among the consumers. Thus, Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company ought to have advertised the tires and provided a precaution affirming the products had to change their behaviors in different weather and road conditions. This would have ensured drivers using the tires in regions with high temperatures take caution to avoid tire blowouts that often led to the vehicles either rolling or tipping over. The deontology theory asserts that, people should adhere to their roles and responsibilities when analyzing a situation due to an ethical dilemma. They should therefore follow individual obligations to uphold a personal duty they deem to be ethically correct. Automobile companies should therefore advertise their products and services as an ethical responsibility to ensure the users develop personal obligations when using the merchandise contrarily to the requirements and precautions provided and required respectively (Emily, Cody & Jennifer, 2014).

The United States fulfills its responsibility to implement safety policies ensuring disasters in the roads are minimized and prevented. The growth of the automobile industry however has challenged the United States government in ensuring the security measures are upheld and respected. This is because automobile companies are producing more vehicles travelling at a faster speed while tire manufacturing firms are collaborating with them putting a challenge on government’s resources required to inspect and verify the products and services are high quality and safe for road usage.

As a result, the tire and vehicle production companies ought to rely on ethical principles within the utilitarianism theory. The theory asserts that, it is an ethical responsibility to predict the consequences of an action. Thus, people and corporations ought to undertake actions and make choices that are ethically correct in order to benefit from any situation. With regards to Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, it is evident the firm did not follow the ethical principles allied to the utilitarianism theory. This is because it did not predict the consequences arising from use of its tires in bad road and weather conditions resulting to tire blowouts and motor vehicles either tipping or rolling over (Robert, Karen, Norihiko & Jenny, 2000).

After the Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company recalled the tires to adhere to the instructions of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, it upheld the rule utilitarianism theory to avoid legal consequences. It however also adhered to the act utilitarianism theory by recalling the tires ensuring no more lives were either harmed or lost due to defected tires resulting to road accidents. This proves that the Bridgestone/Firestone Inc automobile industry adhered to the theory of utilitarianism by disregarding personal feelings and benefits in order to ensure no more innocent consumers would either lose their lives or get injured due to defected tires (Evans, 2004).

It is therefore important for automobile companies to acknowledge the theoretical importance of adhering to the industrial ethics. This is because they will strive to produce quality products that are safe for consumer use. Consequently, they will ensure the products and services undergo thorough analysis before they are distributed to the markets. With regards to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc, this process should have involved undertaking diverse procedures ensuring the automobile tires are compatible with diverse motor vehicles including SUVs. The other procedure should have involved examining how the tires are affected by different road conditions. For example, the company should have ensured the tires can handle both rough and smooth terrains without the drivers suffering from tire blowouts. More importantly, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc should have examined how the tires are affected by cold, warm, and hot weather conditions. This would have prevented loss of lives due to tire blowouts which also involved several motor vehicles tipping or rolling over (Husak, 2004).

Ethics followed by Major Companies Manufacturing Automobile Tires

United States comprises of several companies involved in the manufacture of automobile tires. The companies include AKA Products, American Transportation Products, Carlisle Companies Inc, Cooper Tires, Douglas Tires, Goodyear, Titan Tire Corporation, and the Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company among others. As a result, the companies are required to follow strict ethical rules and standards to maintain stiff and fair competition while producing quality and safe products that do not pose harm or danger to the consumers. The Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company is therefore keen in managing the ethics required in manufacture of tires while sustaining a social responsibility as it is recognized among the three biggest automakers in the country. During the establishment of the company, the founders ensured the core values would be empowered to overcome various industrial challenges and obstacles to achieve success. The values however have not hindered or prevented the company to suffer due to ethical issues allied to its operations and functions (Michael, 2015).

The corporate culture at Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company is set on strong values, artifacts, and norms enforced to achieve its mission statement, goals, and objectives of a business entity with a vision to grow and expand successfully. As a result, the human resource managers are required to hire, train, and retain employees with competent skills and high levels of expertise to ensure the automaker maintains the production of high quality products to achieve consumer and stakeholders’ satisfaction. It has been striving to be recognized as the global leading consumer corporation manufacturing products and services for automotive. This however has not hindered to face ethical issues that have either been rumored or confirmed. For example, the corporation’s reputation for several years has been defaced by allegations that it maintains a caustic culture.

This is because communication among employees and diverse departments in the corporation is always minimal as managers and supervisors are often busy engaging in internal competition rather than achieving and sustaining organizational unity, cohesion, and cooperation (Melita, Lauren & Patrick, 2000). The culture of complacency is dangerous in an organization putting an effort to achieve ethics required to manufacture and distribute quality and safe products. This is because employers and employees will neither feel encouraged nor motivated to pay attention to the problems facing the company at large. Instead, they will focus on addressing personal issues affecting their roles and responsibilities which is selfish and inadequate to ensure a multinational corporation effectively and efficiently achieves its goals and objectives (Jorge & Rodolfo, 2007).

After the 2000 recall was therefore confirmed, Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company had to suffer social and economic losses as well as reputational damages as it had failed to solve the problems internally. This however also slowed the national economy as the company was in danger of filing for bankruptcy. Corporation ethics should therefore be adhered to as they ensure a business venture continues to operate and function while supporting the nation’s economic needs through payment of taxes and property rates. Maintaining high standards during the manufacture of automobile products is a legal and ethical responsibility. Automobile companies are therefore required to adopt quality control measures increasing production while decreasing mistakes to ensure the products are safe for consumer use (FMC, 2004).

The main control measure adopted by companies manufacturing automobile products is the use of Six Sigma as the process emphasizes on quality, continuous improvement, and training.  The Six Sigma process at Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company advocates for the implementation of measures allied to quality in order to achieve near perfection. It is therefore a process applied to discipline corporate operations and functions. It is also embraces a data-driven approach and methodology to ensure defects hindering production of quality and safe products are identified, resolved, eliminated, and prevented in the future.  The Six Sigma process involves the measure of defining, measuring, and designing, analyzing, improving, and verifying the controlled procedures. At Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, the corporation is required to define its goals and objectives. This is to ensure it measures the quality and performance excellence of the tires manufactured and distributed across the country for transportations usage using motor vehicles (Peden, Scurfield, Sleet, Mohan, Hyder, Jarawan & Mathers, 2004).

Consequently, the company ought to design automobile tires that can be used sustain vehicles’ stability without being affected by other factors such as the weight of the occupants or weather conditions. As a result, analyzing manufactured products that are yet to be distributed for consumer use is vital. This process ensures the company is able to identify if the tires have any defects. The tires have to undergo thorough checkups to ensure defects resulting from poor tire design, construction, manufacturing, and quality control are addressed. The defects include; tire de-beading, tread separation, shredding, tire blow outs, wheel explosions, sidewall zipper failures, and deficient skim stocks are addressed and resolved. The defects should be addressed under controlled manufacturing conditions to ensure the qualities are improved and enhanced to achieve the set safety standards and measures. A final test on the tires should be conducted to verify the qualities are high hence, the product safe for the consumer to use (Sabey & Staughton, 2008).

The fact that Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company had to recall its tires asserts the company failed to uphold the Six Sigma process. It also affirms that, issues allied to consumer satisfaction were not being addressed by the company. More so, it was failing to ensure deficiencies in the manufacture of automobile tires are reduced and eliminated to enhance the quality of the products while saving manufacturing costs incurred by the company in rectifying mistakes resulting to control issues within the firm (Mindy, 2012).

The code of conduct in a company is vital as it ensures the firm maintains a strong ethical culture focusing on eliminating risks likely to be faced by consumers using the products and services being manufactures. Focusing on ethical risks guides a corporate to recognize, address, and resolve ethical issues by implementing policies enhancing ethical conducts while creating a culture of honesty and accountability (Mary, 2011). Most consumers visiting an automobile company focus on acquiring information from the handbook to ascertain the firm acknowledges the importance of ethical conduct. This is because a handbook contains reports, questions, and comments from the customers either complaining or praising the quality of the company’s products and services. This affirms the corporation is keen in ensuring consumers’ needs are satisfactorily fulfilled while paying attention to the ideas and opinions provided by customers that have already used the merchandise (Stephen & Clare, 2000).

The handbook also addresses diverse areas of risks the automobile firm ought to deal with. At Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, the company ought to develop a code of conduct ensuring the workplace environment is safe and healthy. This is because consumers and stakeholders often visit the premises to gain firsthand experience on how automobile tires are manufactured. The company therefore strives in ensuring the workplaces are clean, safe, and healthy to avoid employees and visitors suffering from harmful dangers that can ruin its reputation and brand loyalty. The Bridgestone/Firestone Tire and Rubber Company also provide loyal consumers and hardworking employees with gifts and favors. This motivates and encourages every party to undertake their roles and responsibilities effectively and efficiently.

The employees are however likely to engage in workplace conflicts. The company has implemented policies with regards to an insurance cover in order to protect its assets. The insurance cover however should ensure employees’ interests are also addressed. This will ensure the integrity of the firm’s financial records is not violated by leaking the financial statements to the public. Consequently, the firm ought to ensure employees achieve product quality, protect the intellectual property rights, and engage in fair competition internally without violation of antitrust laws and practices of engaging in international business (Mindy, 2012).

How Bridgestone/Firestone Inc Violated Ethical Responsibilities

According to Rowell, Ford began manufacturing SUVs or the Ford Explorer to replace the Bronco II as they were more stable hence, high quality, safe, and reliable. A UN46 test code however revealed the stability of the Explorer prototype was worse than that of the Bronco II. The company therefore decided to lower the center of gravity, use smaller P215 tires and widen the Explorer’s wheel base to enhance stability levels. It however discovered modifying the wheel base lowered center of gravity delaying production (Frontenac, 2009). As a resulted, it unethically decided to continue manufacturing the vehicles under the new modifications without decreasing production. After six and a half million tires were recalled in 2000 with the record being the second largest tore recall in the United States history, it is affirmed that Ford was very slow in approaching the media to discuss the issue (Rowell, 2009).

As a result, studies were conducted revealing that, Ford’s motor vehicles faced stability issues (Joann, 2011). Consequently, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc had manufactured tires with flawed designs. More so, the materials used to manufacture the tires were poor due to low quality. These defects coupled with flawed and irregular manufacturing processes had therefore led the company to distribute defected tires to the market for consumer use. Thus, Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc had to take blame for the high numbers of road accidents that had been recorded prior to the tire recall (Robert & Daniel, 2005).

Conclusion

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc suffered socioeconomic losses after the recall of more than six million tires as they were deemed defected increasing the number of road accidents across the country. This affirms that, it should be held morally accountable for failure of ensuring strict measures are adhered to before distributing defected tires. Thus, the number of road accidents recorded in the country due to the defected tires should be blamed on the company. Ford however should also be blamed as it was discovered that, the SUVs were rolling as they had been manufactured with a lower psi than the set recommendations. This resulted to the Explorers’ lacking stability hence, the vehicles rolling over especially after a tire blowout. Ford had also undertaken in the modification of the Explorers or SUVs especially the Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires. Firestone affirmed the modifications had lowered the vehicles’ stability levels. This affirms that, Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc have to be held accountable for failure to adhere to the industrial ethics implemented in ensuring the products and services distributed in the markets are of high quality and safe for consumer use.

 

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