The New York Times has a report that claims 303 people have died in crashes in Chevy Cobalts and Saturn Ions when airbags didn't deploy.
These are among the models GM has recalled due to a faulty ignition switch and that the federal government is investigating as to when GM knew about the problem. The NHTSA is trying to find out if they were notified by the automaker in a timely manner.
Earlier reports had pegged the fatality figure related to ignition switch failure at around a dozen. The report was conducted by the Friedman Research group and commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety.
GM is calling the study "pure speculation."
The study looked at cases where front seat occupants were killed when airbags failed to deploy — which could include a result of the ignition switch problem — but did not examine the cause of the crashes. The study does not explicitly mention ignition switch issues as the sole cause of airbag failures. It also did not look at cars included in the recall other than the Cobalt and Ion.
If this is correct, then GM could be facing a larger issue with airbag deployment than just the ones tied to the ignition switches.
Update: An earlier version of this story stated that the 303 deaths are tied to the ignition switch. They are actually tied to airbag failure.
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