Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Center for Auto Safety, said the true number of deaths related to the switch defect could reach into triple digits.
"We identified 303 cases, in just the [GM] Cobalts and [GM's Saturn] Ions, where the airbag did not deploy and a front seat occupant was killed," Ditlow
"That is the upper end of the universe.
The number 13 is the lower end."
Ditlow said his organization, a 1970s creation of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, hired Austin, Texas-based Freidman Research Corp. to study data from the Fatal Analysis Reporting System, which records all automotive auto fatalities in the U.S.
Freeman searched, Ditlow
said, for all non-rear-end collisions where the airbag did not deploy, in a Cobalt or Ion, and where a front seat occupant was killed.
The research concluded that at least 303 fatalities could be associated with the ignition-switch failure, which GM
has acknowledged can cause the car's ignition key to move from the "on" to the "accessory" position -- disabling the power brakes, power steering and airbags.
said those search terms would not capture all the possible deaths related to the switch problem.
cited one Pennsylvania incident in which a woman driving an Ion found the ignition cutting off and the car stalling -- in a flood, in rising water.
The car was swept off the road.
"The woman and her
infant child were killed," Ditlow
"And that would not have shown up in the research."