GM car defects could have led to more deaths in US

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4 Jun, 2014 9:30am Chris Ebbs

Study claims that accidents in GM cars linked to ignition switch recall issues occur at higher rate

At least 74 people have died in General Motors cars in accidents similar to those linked to 13 other deaths involving defective ignition switches, according to analysis of US Government crash data by Reuters.

The news agency also says its research found that the accidents occurred at a higher rate in the GM cars compared to competitors' models. The cars affected were mainly sold in the US, Canada and Mexico and were subject to a recall earlier this year.

Reuters studied the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a US database of crash information submitted by local police agencies, looking for single-car frontal collisions where no front airbags deployed and the driver or front-seat passenger was killed.

The agency compared data for the Chevrolet Colt and Saturn Ion, the two most high profile cars in GM's large scale recall of 2.6 million cars for faulty ignition switches, against that of popular small car competition like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

It found that the frequency of such accidents were six times higher in the Ion compared to the Corolla, and twice that of the Focus. The Ion had 5.9 such fatal crashes per 100,000 cars sold, followed by the Cobalt at 4.1. The Focus had 2.9, while the Civic and the Corolla had 1.6 and 1.0 respectively. 

However, while a link was found, it's not clear how many of the accidents were linked to the faulty switches, as crash reports do not include that data. This means that airbags may not have deployed in these accidents for other reasons.