General Motors disputes report of higher death toll linked to faulty ignition switches

(WXYZ) - A news service report says the number of deaths linked to faulty GM ignition switches could be as high as 74.  But a source inside General Motors insists  the report is way off base.

Officially, General Motors has pegged the number of deaths linked to its deadly ignition switches at 13.  But the Reuters news service says its analysis of police data suggests the real number of related-deaths could be 74.

Reuters looked at police data for single-car, frontal collisions where air bags didn’t deploy and the driver or front-seat passenger was killed. They chose that narrow type of crash because it’s consistent with the type of collisions caused by a faulty switch.

As we’ve reported, some 2.6 million GM vehicles were equipped with a switch that could suddenly switch from on to off - disabling the vehicle’s air bags and power steering.

The Reuters reporters said GM’s Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion had nearly six times as many of these kinds of crashes as the Toyota Corolla, and twice that of the Ford Focus.

But today, a GM source threw cold water on the Reuters’ math, saying it relied on misleading federal data that can be, and has in the past, been wildly misinterpreted. 

In a statement, GM said that the Reuters report is based on assumptions rather than data: “There are a number of factors that may contribute to an airbag deployment, such as severity of the (crash), the angle of impact, occupant position and the duration of the crash.”

The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was quoted as saying that he believes the number of deaths linked to the faulty ignitions is higher than 13 - but he doesn't know what that number is.

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