GM Increases to 47 Number of Crashes Linked to Ignition Defect

May 24, 2014 12:27 pm ET

May 24 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. has now linked 47 crashes to small cars with defective ignition switches while saying it hasn’t increased the number of deaths tied to the accidents.

“We have done a thorough analysis of all the information available to us and at this time, based on everything we know, there have been 13 fatalities associated with the ignition switch,” Jim Cain, a company spokesman, said today in a telephone interview.

GM on Feb. 25 tied 31 frontal crashes to the faulty ignition switches, which can suddenly shut off the engine and disable air bags. The automaker began recalling 2.59 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars in February, and has told U.S. regulators that it knew about the defect as long ago as 2001.

The Detroit-based automaker responded to a statement yesterday by David Friedman, acting chief of the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that the number of deaths attributed to the ignition-switch defect probably will rise.

“The final death toll associated with this safety defect is not known to NHTSA, but we believe it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost,” Friedman said in the statement.

“GM would be in the position to determine additional cases related directly to this defect based on lawsuits, incident claims and additional data reported directly to the automaker from its customers, dealerships, insurance companies, safety groups and other sources,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s statement was reported earlier by Reuters.

GM last week agreed to pay a record $35 million fine as part of the U.S. Transportation Department’s probe into how the company handled the recall, which is the subject of investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.

--With assistance from Dan Hart in Washington.