Reuters reports the original fatality figure of 13 allegedly linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch that spurred a recall of 2.6 million General Motors vehicles this February may now actually be as high as 74.
The news agency researched the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database for “single-car frontal collisions where no front air bags deployed and the driver or front-seat passenger was killed,” then compared its findings between two of the vehicles under the spotlight of the recall — the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt — and their competitors of the three most popular small vehicles: Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The final analysis discovered the Ion held 5.9 fatal accidents per 100,000 units sold, followed by the Cobalt at 4.1, Focus at 2.9, Civic at 1.6 and Corolla at 1.0.
As for whether the findings held a link to the switch, the researchers weren’t able to confirm as FARS doesn’t include such data for the most part, leaving open other possibilities as to why the air bags failed to deploy in the affected vehicles.
Reuters presented their work to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the automakers researched. Though GM remained silent on the findings, it stressed that its focus was on “doing the right thing” by their customer base. Toyota and Honda also remained silent, while Ford took issue with the agency’s methodology.
Among the two safety groups, NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman stated that while the final death toll wasn’t known by his agency, “it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost” as a result of the defective part. IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer David Zuby noted the research may have overstated the number of deaths linked to non-deployment of air bags, as well as suggest that both the Ion and Cobalt were “less crashworthy” than the rest of the compacts compared. The FARS database itself also didn’t report information on five of the 13 deaths acknowledged by GM, and only has data through 2012.