- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2014

General Motors‘ woes have gotten a bit worse. A safety report shows that airbag deployment issues in 1.6 million recently recalled vehicles possibly contributed to the deaths of 303 people — far greater than GM’s reported toll of 12 deaths related to the vehicles.

The Center for Auto Safety said it used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System to uncover the numbers, Reuters reported. GM, however, said its data shows only 12 deaths in 34 crashes involving the recalled vehicles, which include the Saturn Ion, from 2003 to 2004, and the Chevrolet Cobalt, between 2005 and 2007.

The company was already under fire for a slow recall of the 1.6 million vehicles, which had ignition switch problems discovered a decade ago but only brought to the public’s attention last month.

GM dismissed the center’s report, saying it used “raw data” that has yet to be fully analyzed.

“Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions,” the company said in an issued statement, according to Reuters.

But Clarence Ditlow, the center’s executive director, said federal authorities should have done more to look into the airbag issue.

NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers,” he told Reuters.

NHTSA already faces pressure to explain why it didn’t push GM harder to recall the vehicles with ignition switch issues. Customers had complained of the problem for the past 10 years, and at least two deaths have been linked to the issue.