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303 Deaths from Faulty Airbags: More Evidence of GM’s Cover-up

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When I first wrote about the GM recall  I focused on exactly what everyone else was focusing on—the faulty ignition switch that had been linked to 12 deaths (now 13 and perhaps growing). What we all failed to notice, including the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) were the 303 deaths linked to the failure of airbags to deploy in 2005 and 2006 model year Cobalts. These statistics were reported by GM and in the fatal accidents database compiled by the NHTSA. It took the work of outside groups to gather the information and reveal it to the public. These numbers have been collected since 2005, more evidence of GM’s failure to take appropriate action when confronted with overwhelming data showing it was marketing, distributing,  and selling dangerous and defective cars to the public.

This week CBS News aired the story based on studies of the available data:   “In 2006, Cobalts had more than 50 times as many airbag claims as Honda Civics, and five times the claims of the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. And, 2005 and 2006 Cobalts had the highest fatality rate per 1,000 vehicles sold in its class — and the highest rate of fatal accidents when airbags did not deploy.”

GM did report the fatal accidents in 2005 and 2006, the first years the Cobalt was on the road. “GM reported more claims of injury and death with airbags as a contributing factor than any other car in its class.”   (CBS News, 3/25/14)  And yet nothing happened. There were no investigations, no recalls and apparently no attempt to fix faulty parts. NHTSA, which had this information as well, has said that the data available at the time was not sufficient to warrant a formal investigation. NHTSA responded to the CBS News investigation, saying,  NHTSA conducted three separate, special crash investigations involving GM’s Chevy Cobalts and repeatedly reviewed relevant data available at the time, but that data was not sufficient to warrant a formal investigation. The complaint charts NHTSA reviewed in 2007, which examine airbag non-deployment in the Cobalt and similar vehicles, show that the rate of non-deployments for the Cobalt did not stand out, with multiple models reporting higher rates. New information provided by GM has prompted NHTSA to launch an aggressive investigation into the timing of their recall.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, wrote federal safety regulators with his conclusions. “NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers,”

According to the LA Times, NHTSA and GM maintain that raw data, which shows the 303 deaths, does not allow for a conclusive link between the faulty ignition switch and air bag deployment. The does not seem to be the real issue any more. What we have to focus on is the failure of GM to act on known problems with multiple models, including the Chevy Cobalt –  problems that began in the year the Cobalt was introduced.

As of this writing, there are 2.2 million GM vehicles being recalled, dating back to 2005, over the ignition switch defect. Yet GM did nothing until February of this year. And the government watchdog agency, the NHTSA, also failed to act. This latest revelation about the 303 deaths connected to GM vehicles with faulty airbags will add to evidence that GM failed to act in the consumers’ best interest. Lawmakers investigating GM and the NHTSA are certainly paying attention to this recently revealed data.  GM has some explaining to do, and it looks like it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

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  1. Oscar says:
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    Goes to show, even Made in America is just as terrible as Made in China.

  2. DAN CAREY says:
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    DON’T FORGET THAT “GM” ALSO OWNED SUZUKI MOTORS . ( CONTROLING INTEREST)
    AND IF YOU GOOGLE AIRBAG LIGHTS STAY ON YOU WILL SEE ALOT OF 2005-2006 FORENZA’S, RENO’S WITH A SENSOR PROBLEM ON BOTH DRIVER SIDE AND PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAG . Service Bulletin No.: TS0501158 AIRBAG LIGHT ON; DTC B1378 (DRIVER SIDE AIRBAG RESISTANCE TOO HIGH) AND/OR DTC B1382 (PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAG RESISTANCE TOO HIGH). FORENZA, SEDAN/WAGON, RENO (RQ420) 2005-2006. VIN(S) -6K425022. *NJ SO , WHY ISN’T THIS A RECALL ? WHAT DO THE OWNERS OF ALL THESE VEHICLES DO NOW THAT SUZUKI MOTORS OF AMERICA IS NO LONGER SELLING IN THE USA . DAMN , WHEN THE THE WORKING STIFF CATCH A BREAK ?