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303 deaths caused by General Motors cars with failed airbags, watchdog says

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General Motors faces new problems as a review of fatalities linked to its vehicles reveals figures far higher than previously thought.

The automaker has come under scrutiny following the recall of 1.6 million vehicles last month. In total, the automaker has recalled six models due to defective ignition switches, which if bumped, can turn off power systems and engines -- which in turn disable air bags. The 2005-7 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-7 Saturn Ion, 2006-7 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky have all been recalled.

A review commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer watchdog, says there were 303 crash fatalities in which air bags did not inflate properly within two of the recalled cars -- the 2003–2007 Saturn Ion and the 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt. GM, on the other hand, said that 12 deaths were caused by the fault in the cars, including the four other models.

It is worth noting that the data does not provide a reason for the air bag failure, so all instances of it not be directly due to the ignition switch problem. A spokesperson for GM said that "without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions."

However, the center's executive director, Clarence Ditlow, is far less PC about the findings, writing in a complaint to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

"NHTSA claims it did not do an investigation because it did not see a defect trend. Based on the [data], the only way NHTSA could not see a defect trend is if it closed its eyes."

Read on: The Wire

Image credit: General Motors

— By on March 14, 2014, 5:58 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure