CBC Digital Archives

Marketplace: It's a small-car world

Shoddy products and shady businesses: these were the enemies of CBC-TV's Marketplace, a half-hour program that stood up for the Canadian consumer. Beginning in 1972, Stompin' Tom Connors sang the theme as hosts Joan Watson and George Finstad presented a lively parade of product tests, safety alerts and money advice. CBC Digital Archives presents full episodes from 1974 and 1975, a period when Marketplace regularly drew over 1.7 million weekly viewers.

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Among the Corolla, Datsun, Pinto and Vega, which subcompact car performs best? In an era of escalating gas prices, all four are energy-efficient, but this 1974 episode of Marketplace sets out to learn which one is safest. Also in this episode, Nova Scotia pioneers another affordable housing option: co-op building, in which a group works together to build houses for all members. Other segments address suspicious spinach labels and the many pluses of getting around on foot.
• This episode of Marketplace aired years before revelations that a serious design flaw in the Ford Pinto made it a potential deathtrap. Lacking a rear bumper but with a fuel tank very near the back, the Pinto was prone to bursting into flame in a rear-end collision. Worse, the frame could buckle so that the doors were impossible to open, consigning occupants to an agonizing death.

• In 1977 a leaked memo revealed that in 1971 Ford had done a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether to spend $11 per Pinto to remedy the problem. It concluded that it would be less costly to settle lawsuits resulting from deaths and injuries caused by the flaw than to fix it.

• The Pinto was manufactured in St. Thomas, Ont., and in California. Because Ontario had stricter standards for mitigating the damage from rear-end collisions, a 1977 exposé in Mother Jones magazine suggested Pintos made in Ontario were safer.

• Under pressure by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos in 1978.
Medium: Television
Program: Marketplace
Broadcast Date: April 21, 1974
Guest(s): Bob Knoll, John Leadbetter, Eric Richard, Art Symes
Host: George Finstad, Joan Watson
Reporter: Ken Bagnell
Duration: 22:55

Last updated: April 15, 2013

Page consulted on October 20, 2014

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