As many as 303 deaths could have been caused by a defect that recently prompted General Motors Co. to recall 1.6 million cars, according to a new report commissioned by an independent consumer watchdog group.
GM has acknowledged only 12 deaths linked to faulty ignition switches that can disable the cars’ safety systems, the LA Times said in its report.
In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week, the Center for Auto Safety cited raw data pulled from accident reports connected to two of the six models GM has recalled.
The data cited by the center’s letter was analyzed by Friedman Research Corp., which evaluates vehicle design and safety. By looking at NHTSA’s database of fatal crashes involving the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and the 2003-07 Saturn Ion in which the air bags did not deploy, Friedman determined that 303 people in the driver’s seat or front passenger seat were killed.
Of the 1.6 million cars recalled, 1.4 million are in the U.S. The models affected include several model years of the Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and Pontiac G5, along with the Ion and Cobalt. The cars all share the same ignition component, and none of them remain in production.
The number of fatalities increased while GM and the NHTSA delayed seriously addressing the issue for years, according to Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety.