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Operations Management: Ford Vs. Firestone


Operations management refers to all sets of strategies and activities that are geared towards the careful management of processes to produce and distribute products and services. According to Bjorn & Rune (1999:294), the set of activities that are involved in operations management includes product creation, development, production, and distribution. Consequently, OM is greatly associated with Product and Service Management, which greatly focuses on the efficiency and effectiveness of processes involved in quality assurance. As such, quality forms the central focus of operations management.

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The Case Itself

The major concern in this case and the genesis of the allegations was that the accident rate among Ford’s automobiles was very high. As a result of the scenario, a blame game ensued between the two companies with each blaming the other for a large number of accidents. Pragmatically, while Ford blamed Firestone for supplying it with poor quality tires, Firestone blamed Ford’s engineers for the production of poor quality automobiles (SUV), which lacked compatibility with the tires that Firestone produced. This paper, therefore, is an analysis of Ford vs. Firestone case Death on the Highway: Quality Problems at Ford and Firestone to unearth the operations management crisis in the two companies in regard to quality control issues.

The Costs of Poor Quality

Apart from the financial cost implications, the poor quality of Ford and Firestone products had scores of other costs both internal and external. For instance, the companies had to bear internal costs such a the costs of reworking of both the tires and the explorers, the costs of obsolete repairs on finished products, which has both monitory and time costs, loss of materials, and some finished products as scrap, the cost of unnecessarily changing suppliers and altering the purchasing channel, expediting as a result of emergencies among others. In addition, the poor products cost the company massively in terms of external relations. First, it led to a loss in the reputation of the companies and their products in the markets. The customers value their lives hence it is unlikely that they will buy Ford’s explorers; the latter of which is very prone to accidents (Henry & Sara, 2000: 5). As a result, it resulted in a drastic reduction in the sale of the products which culminated in spells of losses in the two companies. Secondly, this poor reputation greatly hurt the relationship between the companies and the investors, creditors as well as suppliers due to a lack of absolute confidence in its future (Henry & Sara, 2000: 5).

The Management Decision in both Ford and Firestone That Led To Poor Quality

The manufactures in both companies ignored, (to a great extent) the most important aspects of the products, which were the reasons for the high accidents prevalence rate. First, Ford (while designing the explorer which had a host of all the desirable qualities-ruggedness, room, comfort, and typically smooth ride-, they lacked the focus on the characteristic behavior of the users (especially the American drivers) who have a tendency of driving at very high speed and low attention to tires maintenance thus tending to rely greatly on built-in safety features such as safety belts, airbags and roll bar construction to protect them in case of an accident (case, p3). They also failed to include the load limits and the lower tires pressure requirements. In addition, both companies made no effort whatsoever to emphasize to the SUV owners, the importance of maintaining adequate tires pressure since the users rarely check tires pressure (case, p 4). Furthermore, they made decisions that favored their marketing objectives and ignored the safety of the user in the Long run.

As a result of the increasing tradeoff between marketing, engineering, and manufacturing in the development of the new automobile design bronco II, they produced an automobile highly prone to accident, which was alleged to have a high center of gravity and less stability.

When Ford was presented with four alternatives of increasing the automobile stability, management in Ford went for lower tires pressure, which increased the accident risk factor instead. Reliance on ancient heat resistance levels by Firestone in tires manufacturing was another wrong decision. Firestone used the same heat resistance benchmark as two decades ago despite the changing conditions and driving habits rationale. This compromised further the quality of the automobile. Ideally, the underlying principles on which these decisions were made included the highly valued market-oriented strategy that aimed at responding to the market needs without so much concern on the safety of the users which was a pure lack of ethics in the operations of the two companies (case, 5). In addition, the management concerned itself with cost minimization and profitability thus invested in models that helped them meet this objective (Henry & Sara, 2000: 6).

Causes of Accidents in the Two Company

The poor qualities of products of both companies were mainly the cause of accidents. First, the tires that Firestone produced (wilderness AT tires) were poorly engineered thus they could blow out easily (especially with high load and high speed.) Secondly, their heat resistance was rather low. In addition, Firestone failed in terms of ethics to adequately advise the users on matters such as regular tire pressure checking and maintaining optimum pressure of the tire, careful driving among other aspects of road safety. On the other hand, the SUVs that Ford produced had a high center of gravity and low stability due to their make and poor design.

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In my own opinion, Ford is the major contributor to accidents on the highways. First, they made vehicles that failed to meet the quality that guarantees road safety for the users. In addition, they went ahead to use Firestone tires knowing that their quality failed to match their explorer’s needs. Specifically, Ford failed to effectively control the quality of parts that they used to make their cars (faults in Ford’s quality control systems). Tires alone cannot cause accident hence the greater blame for the accidents is attributable to Ford since it is their cars that are prone to the accidents and not the Firestone tires. If proper control measures were in place, there would be no use of wrong components in automobile manufacturing on the part of Ford hence accidents would be minimal.

Works Cited

Bjorn, A. and Rune M. Moen Integrating benchmarking and poor quality cost measurement for assisting the quality management work: Benchmarking: An International Journal, MCB UP Ltd, Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Pp: 291 – 301, 1999

Henry J. and Sara N, Could $1woth On Nylon Have Saved Peoples Lives? Expert’s Caps Steel Belts May Help Stop Shredded Firestone Tires, USA today, Arlington, VA, 2000

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StudyCorgi. "Operations Management: Ford Vs. Firestone." November 7, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Operations Management: Ford Vs. Firestone'. 7 November.

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