This issue could surpass the 27 Ford Pinto fire deaths and the 271 fatalities blamed on the Ford Explorer/Firestone debacle

The General Motors ignition switch recall appears to be rapidly spiraling out of control. A new report analyzing federal crash data suggests that there weren't only 12 or 13 people killed after their GM vehicle's ignition inadvertently switched off, disabling the airbags. No, the new figure could be 303. And that's just on two of the six recalled models, the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, so the figure could grow.

The review of the crash data was done by Friedman Research Corporation, which looked at airbag failures in GM vehicles between 2003 and 2012 (despite reports of issues back in 2001). According to The New York Times, the review only looked at cases where the airbags failed to deploy – it didn't analyze the actual causes of the crashes.

Still, it's a troubling development, which if proven correct would mean this latest safety issue easily surpasses the 27 deaths attributed to Ford Pinto fires and the estimated 271 fatalities blamed on the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire debacle.

Meanwhile, Automotive News reports on trial lawyers smelling blood in the water. Litigators are looking to line up clients that have been affected by the recall, with one lawyer even saying he was planning to challenge post-bankruptcy GM's immunity to issues that happened before a federal bailout.

"If you are aware of potential exposure to litigation and you don't reveal it, that's fraud," said Bob Hilliard, a Texas-based lawyer representing the families of a pair of Wisconsin teens killed in a Cobalt crash in 2006. "I'm going to go back to that bankruptcy judge and say, 'You have to undo this, the liability of old GM, because it was the new GM's continued coverup after the bankruptcy that allowed people to be hurt or killed.'"

Automotive News spoke to Chip Bowles, a bankruptcy lawyer, about Hilliard's attempt to reopen the case and remove new GM's immunity. Bowles told the site Hilliard would need to prove that old GM willingly deceived US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber.

Actually doing that, though, may prove very difficult, with Bowles adding, "Lots of luck there, friend."

UPDATE: There is concern that the study citing 303 attributable deaths may not represent an accurate calculation, because its findings were reportedly based in part on a database that does not discern between accidents in which the airbags were supposed to deploy and accidents in which they were not. We have a followup story with details on the growing controversy here.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 124 Comments
      car-a-holic
      • 9 Months Ago
      That certainly an ugly fact if its true
      D210
      • 9 Months Ago
      Toyota still sucks the most. Remember: Jap crap
        rsxvue
        • 9 Months Ago
        @D210
        I'm not Japanese, but I find it offensive when people use the word "Jap." To me, it carries the same racial connotation as the N word and it needs to stop. It's one thing to bash a company and another to be racist.
        GR
        • 9 Months Ago
        @D210
        Herp derp. This article really does not work in supporting your argument.
        SquareFour
        • 9 Months Ago
        @D210
        An obvious trolling attempt, which would normally be a who cares event, except for the fact this isn't about petty "my favorite corporation is better than yours" shat here. People died. Think before you act like an ignorant fool. It's not hard.
        Mark
        • 9 Months Ago
        @D210
        they stepped up apologized and recalled immediately after they found the problem (which was a Canadian made part). you must work for that dinosaur known as the UAW. plus, that Jap Crap will outlast and keep a higher resale value than that UAW crap. it's your money though, waste it if you want.
        gtv4rudy
        • 9 Months Ago
        @D210
        and you still think the world is flat, right D210?
      owen brown
      • 9 Months Ago
      Obama better be glad he's not running for reelection. This is just pathetic.
        thomas.leopard
        • 9 Months Ago
        @owen brown
        What does Obama have to do with any of this?
          owen brown
          • 9 Months Ago
          @thomas.leopard
          I was just pointing out that he always use GM's recovery as part of his legacy. Why shouldn't he take some of the blame for this? Having this fiasco now would not be a good thing for his chances.
        FutureDoc
        • 9 Months Ago
        @owen brown
        If you are going to blame random people for things that they were not involved in, it was 2003... Blame Bush2... or Bush1 for spawning Bush2 or... blame Reagan because he chose Bush1 for VP... or....
        marv.shocker
        • 9 Months Ago
        @owen brown
        You're a retard.
      Herman
      • 9 Months Ago
      GM was saved why?
        mitytitywhitey
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Herman
        Seriously. Every company from banks to automakers deemed 'too big to fail' by the feds have turned out to be full of a-holes.
      Eduardo Maal
      • 9 Months Ago
      Thank God you guys bailed GM out, so they could continue to make shitty death traps.
        knightrider_6
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Eduardo Maal
        So you want to punish 2 million workers for poor decisions made by executives? Sounds fair.
          Eduardo Maal
          • 9 Months Ago
          @knightrider_6
          Yeah, we all know what happens in a bankruptcy. A magical black hole opens up, and sucks in the entire company and everyone gets screwed. Dude, GM was bankrupt. That's the reality. What would've happened was, the creditors would've stepped in and decided what to do with the company. I mean, what do you think a company is? It has to make a profit. Do you think its logical to have a company losing money, bailed out by taxpayers? You know, the money was lost anyway, its just that instead of GM paying the price, it was dissolved around all the US. The price hasn't been paid yet.
      normc32
      • 9 Months Ago
      " Amber had put herself at considerable risk on July 29, when her car hit a tree around 4 a.m. in Dentsville, Md. She was not wearing her seatbelt, was legally drunk and had reached 69 miles an hour in a 25 m.p.h. zone just before the crash that killed her, according to a crash report." http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/business/in-general-motors-recalls-inaction-and-trail-of-fatal-crashes.html?referrer=
        mapoftazifosho
        • 9 Months Ago
        @normc32
        Ok, that's all really...really bad...is this what the media is hanging their hat on?
      normc32
      • 9 Months Ago
      " Ms. Chansuthus had been at a party at her boyfriend’s house and had been drinking, both her brother and Mr. Gritton said. The accident report said that her blood alcohol level was 0.19 —more than twice the legal limit. Nonetheless, the company settled the case." http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/business/house-committee-demands-records-from-gm.html?referrer=
        Karfreek
        • 9 Months Ago
        @normc32
        So becauase she was drunk, that means that she was not entitiled to the same life saving safety devices that a sober person would have, and that justifies GMs actions? I just want to make sure I have this right.
          Karfreek
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          Well then lets make sure that every exec, engineer and accountant that is tied to this decision is swinging infront of the Ren Center when this is done. Im just using your logic, here.
          normc32
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          Yes, acting neglegent is something someone should have to pay for.
      GR
      • 9 Months Ago
      Maybe Toyota haters can shut up now. At least with most Toyota "unintended acceleration" cases, science proved the vehicle was not at fault.
        normc32
        • 9 Months Ago
        @GR
        Toyota is still having problems as they just recalled some from last year as the ecu code is a mess: http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/11/07/toyota-unintended-acceleration-and-the-big-bowl-of-spaghetti-code/
          NightFlight
          • 9 Months Ago
          @normc32
          @ fran There'd be a lot less talk about his stupid Trifecta tuned Encore and Verano.
          fran
          • 9 Months Ago
          @normc32
          Oh normc32. What would world do without you? :(
        tiger
        • 9 Months Ago
        @GR
        Very poor science at that.
          GR
          • 9 Months Ago
          @tiger
          NASA is poor science, huh? I wonder how those fools put men on the moon or rovers on Mars.
          NightFlight
          • 9 Months Ago
          @tiger
          @ tiger Yeah, those NASA scientists are real idiots.... What an absolute moronic comment.
        SquareFour
        • 9 Months Ago
        @GR
        Sick of corporate fanboys. People died here and people died in the "unintended acceleration cases". There is absolutely no reason for chest-beating or "yo mamas" here. None. It's just stupid. HEY! SCIENCE SAYS MY FAVORITE CORPORATION'S NEGLIGENCE & GREED IS LESS GREEDY & NEGLIGENT THAN YOUR FAVORITE CORPORATION! WOOT!
          GR
          • 9 Months Ago
          @SquareFour
          Um, how many people died in Toyota's incidents? How many were actually Toyota's fault? Reread this article. They are quite different in scale and guilt liability.
        spam
        • 9 Months Ago
        @GR
        Nothing is "proved" here. I don't understand why the DOT (who allegedly "proved" unintended accel. didn't exist) is somehow more trustworthy than the NHTSA (who ignored this). And in fact Toyota may be settling the unintended acceleration case, at an expensive liability. They would not do that if there wasn't a SIGNIFICANT problem with their hardware/software arrangements: http://embeddedgurus.com/state-space/2014/02/are-we-shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot-with-stack-overflow/
          Famsert
          • 9 Months Ago
          @spam
          Actually they WOULD do that if they were being tarred and feathered by the US government. I recall the DOT releasing slides showing that FORD had even more unintended accleration complaints than Toyota before the media circus yet they were never investigated.
      knightrider_6
      • 9 Months Ago
      Remember when Toyota's brake pedal issue was blamed for hundreds of deaths? Then it became 5 deaths, and later zero deaths.
        normc32
        • 9 Months Ago
        @knightrider_6
        Toyotas had almost 40 confirmed deaths. Economy cars of this era had side airbags as an option so when Suzy goes off roading at higher than speed limits, mix in drunk and unbelted, and wraps the passenger's door around a tree she wouldn't be living anyway.
          Famsert
          • 9 Months Ago
          @normc32
          I've posted it many times now but I won't again for all the clueless idiots on this site. There was a powerpoint from the DOT floating around that showed that only one case was actually linked to stacked mats and nothing actually linked to sticky pedals.
          normc32
          • 9 Months Ago
          @normc32
          No sticky pedals? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/why-toyota-must-replace-flawed-cts-gas-pedal-with-superior-denso-pedal/ Or was it the pedals and floor mat but a placebo? http://www.safetyresearch.net/2013/11/07/toyota-unintended-acceleration-and-the-big-bowl-of-spaghetti-code/
          normc32
          • 9 Months Ago
          @normc32
          wiki has over 240 references, they are all bad?
      WindsWilling
      • 9 Months Ago
      All those who knew about this issue and tried to bury it up should face criminal charges and trialed accordingly. Enough of these guys in suits getting away with murder, literally. When Ford had their issue, it was handled differently at least. GM though is a snake, and needs to be punished. Sometimes I thought that GM going under would be OK because sales would transfer to Ford/Chrysler, along with their workers due to need of more hands for production and such. I have no doubt in my mind now. I'll never, ever buy a GM in my lifetime again.
        spam
        • 9 Months Ago
        @WindsWilling
        That's a little bit extreme. The NHTSA estimates the failure rate of airbags is about 10-18%, and even with this data, the failure rate is only 26%. That is a bit higher, and deserving of repercussions, but in all honesty I think the general failure of Toyota's drive by wire system (unintended acceleration) is more worrying/confidence-shaking.
          mapoftazifosho
          • 9 Months Ago
          @spam
          "The DOT concluded that, other than a number of incidents caused by accelerators hanging up on incorrectly fitted floor mats, the accidents were caused by drivers depressing their accelerators when they intended to apply their brakes. 'Pedal misapplication' was the DOT's delicate terminology for this phenomenon."
          mapoftazifosho
          • 9 Months Ago
          @spam
          Do you even internet?
      churchmotor
      • 9 Months Ago
      I see now why the Government dumped all their stock in GM. Insider information. They knew the stock price would soon be zero. I feel sorry for Canada now knowing this debacle and now stuck holding worthless stocks.
        bootsnchaps60
        • 9 Months Ago
        @churchmotor
        Since you kinow about the insider information, who provided it? How did you find out?
      sp33dklz
      • 9 Months Ago
      The worse GM does, the happier I get. I can't even begin to express my hate for this corporation. It's the epitome of corporate disease in this country.
    • Load More Comments