Safety advocates alarmed by fatal accidents in recalled GM cars

Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:37am EDT
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By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Safety advocates say two recent fatal accidents involving recalled General Motors Co cars provide evidence that the automaker should advise owners to take vehicles off the road until they are repaired.

In both incidents airbags failed to deploy, which is one sign of an accident related to the faulty ignition switch behind GM's 2.6 million vehicle recall. Airbags can fail to deploy in other situations depending on the speed and angle of the impact and whether or not the car senses a passenger in the seat.

It is not known whether in either accident the key slipped from "run" to "accessory" position, which could indicate a faulty ignition switch.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which is probing GM's slow response in recalling the vehicles, said it is aware of these accidents but would not say whether it plans to launch a formal investigation into whether they were caused by ignition switch malfunctions.

GM said it would be inappropriate to link recent crashes to its recall of 2.6 million low-cost, small vehicles including the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion. It also has not investigated the two incidents.

"Without extensive analysis or further investigation it is pure speculation to imply that an accident or injury involving a Cobalt was the result of a faulty ignition switch," said GM spokesman Greg Martin, who declined to comment on specific incidents.

The Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group, said the regulator should launch a probe.

"NHTSA did very little if anything before the recall so it's all the more reason to do an aggressive investigation after the recall," Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in an interview this week. "Our advice to consumers is, 'park it now.'"   Continued...

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files