General Motors continues to face pressure from the government as well as its own internal investigation over car defects that led to a recall last month. According to a review commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group, there were 303 crash fatalities in which air bags did not inflate tied to two recalled car models.
That tally is drastically higher than the previously reported number of fatalities, which was in the low teens. The two models in question are the 2003–2007 Saturn Ion and the 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt.
While the data collects crashes from the models in question with faulty air bags, it does not provide a reason for the air bags' failure. So the numbers, while worrying (air bags should ideally work all of the time), may not be directly tied to the ignition switch issue that this recall specifically addresses—only to the models that were recalled. A spokesperson for GM said that “without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions.”
The Center’s report does not mince words on the matter. Executive Director Clarence Ditlow writes, “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.”