Exclusive: At least 74 dead in crashes similar to those GM linked to faulty switches

Mon Jun 2, 2014 8:31pm EDT
 
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By Ryan McNeill and Paul Lienert

(Reuters) - At least 74 people have died in General Motors cars in accidents with some key similarities to those that GM has linked to 13 deaths involving defective ignition switches, a Reuters analysis of government fatal-crash data has determined. Such accidents also occurred at a higher rate in the GM cars than in top competitors’ models, the analysis showed.

Reuters searched the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a national database of crash information submitted by local law-enforcement agencies, for single-car frontal collisions where no front air bags deployed and the driver or front-seat passenger was killed.

The news agency compared the incidence of this kind of deadly accident in the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion, the highest-profile cars in GM's recall of 2.6 million cars with defective switches, against the records of three popular small-car competitors: Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

The analysis found that the frequency of such accidents in the Ion was nearly six times that of 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, with 4.1, the Ford Focus with 2.9, the Civic with 1.6, and the Corolla with 1.0.

It is not clear how many of the deadly accidents identified by Reuters involved defective ignition switches, because crash reports typically do not include that data. That leaves open the possibility that air bags may have failed to deploy in some of the GM crashes for reasons other than faulty switches.

GM, which has offered few details of the fatal crashes related to faulty switches, told Reuters it derived the tally of 13 deaths from claims and lawsuits filed against the automaker. GM checked those claims and lawsuits against other sources available to it, including vehicle data recorders recovered from some crashes.

The Reuters analysis relied on the FARS database, which encompasses a much wider universe of accidents. GM declined to say whether it had used information from the federal database.

Reuters disclosed its findings in detail to GM and federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).   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