GM sticks to lower fatality numbers from ignition switch problems

GM continues to maintain that the number of people who died from problems related to a faulty ignition switch was 13 even as a Reuters analysis put the figure at 74.

Reuters said in an analysis published on Tuesday that the number of deaths due to the problem was least 74. The news agency arrived at the number using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a government database that contained accident reports from US law enforcement agencies.

According to the auto major though, it used more detailed information when investigating accidents using the claims data available with it.

GM and Reuters reviewed accidents in which drivers or passengers in the front seat were killed in head-on collisions with one other vehicle during which the GM vehicle's airbag failed to deploy.

The auto major recalled 2.4 million vehicles over the past several months following discovery of a problem with the ignition switch which caused cars to shut off while driving, disabling power steering, anti-lock brakes and airbags.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made no comment in the matter, it had previously said the final number of deaths would likely be higher than 13.

Meanwhile, the recall system, USA Today reports, often falls short of the main goal  of fixing vehicles quickly. Though three in four ultimately do get repaired, it is a time consuming process. Also for older vehicles, like the 2.6 million small cars carrying GM's defective switch, the repair percentage falls dramatically as it is not easy for either regulators or companies to find people who are often the second or third owners of an older car.

According to Carfax, which conducts extensive research into used car sales, over 3.5 million cars are listed for sale online currently, with open safety recalls.

Spokesperson Christopher Basso said, currently there were almost 36 million cars on the road that had an unfixed recall, of which around 10 per cent were for sale online just last year alone.

The decades-old recall system had been questioned for years but was now facing perhaps its most intense scrutiny ever.

With GM car owners and dealerships waiting for more new switches from a supplier, the automaker was hard put to explain why it took over 10 years to issue a recall that could have saved lives.