Auto Safety Watchdog Group Says 303 Deaths Linked to GM Ignition-Switch Recall | Edmunds

Auto Safety Watchdog Group Says 303 Deaths Linked to GM Ignition-Switch Recall


Just the Facts:
  • The Center for Auto Safety said an examination of federal crash data shows that 303 deaths are linked to the GM recall for defective ignition switches.
  • General Motors has linked 12 deaths to the defective switch.
  • "Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions" from the federal crash data, said GM in a statement on Friday.

DETROIT — The Center for Auto Safety said an examination of federal crash data shows that 303 deaths are linked to the GM recall for defective ignition switches.

The deaths occurred in two of the recalled cars, the 2005-?07 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2003-'07 Saturn Ion, according to the private watchdog group. It said 115 deaths occurred in the Ion and 188 in the Cobalt.

General Motors has linked 12 deaths to the defective switch.

The Center for Auto Safety commissioned the Friedman Research Corporation to analyze the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatal Analysis Reporting System or FARS data from 2002-'12. The research looked at cases in which the airbags failed to deploy. The faulty ignition switches could cause the airbags to not deploy in a crash.

NHTSA, which oversees vehicle recalls in the U.S., is being criticized by the Center for Auto Safety for not detecting a trend in airbag failures in the recalled vehicles.

"NHTSA claims it did not do an investigation because it did not see a defect trend," wrote Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, in a March 13 letter to David J. Friedman, NHTSA acting administrator. "The only way NHTSA could not see a defect trend is if it closed its eyes. In some instances, single complaints can trigger a recall."

GM criticized the findings.

"As knowledgeable observers know, FARS tracks raw data," wrote Alan Adler, a GM spokesman, in response to an Edmunds query. "Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions. "In contrast, research is underway at GM and the investigation of the ignition-switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing. While this is happening, we are doing what we can now to ensure our customers' safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today's GM is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust."

NHTSA has opened an investigation into the timeliness of GM's recall to determine whether the automaker properly followed the legal requirements for reporting recalls on the vehicles.

The agency said it "will monitor consumer outreach as the recall process continues and take additional appropriate action as warranted," in a statement posted on the NHTSA Web site.

The recall involves the 2005-'07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-'07 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice, 2007 Pontiac G5 and Saturn Sky and 2003-'07 Saturn Ion.

The safety defect concerns a condition in which the vehicle's ignition switch may unintentionally move from the "run" position to the "accessory" or "off" position, resulting in a loss of power.

The defect could cause the airbags not to be deployed in a crash. The ignition switch will be replaced in the affected vehicles.

GM faces a Congressional investigation and U.S. Justice Department probe into its handling of the recall.

Edmunds says: This latest study raises even more questions about the GM recall, ones that may not be answered until the various investigations are finished.

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