GM recall: Report 'links' faulty vehicles to 303 deaths
A report has linked faulty airbags in two of the six models recalled by General Motors to 303 deaths.
The study, commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety, reviewed US federal crash data for the models.
GM has recalled nearly 1.6 million vehicles over faulty ignition switches which could turn off the engine, disabling the airbags.
But it has disputed the number in the report, saying it only looked at raw data and did not evaluate the reasons.
"Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions," the company said in a statement.
"In contrast, research is under way at GM and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing."
The carmaker has linked the ignition switch issue to 12 deaths.Growing pressure
End Quote Clarence Ditlow Center for Auto Safety
NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers”
The recall covers six models: the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice, 2003-07 Saturn Ion, and 2007 Saturn Sky.
The report by the Center for Auto Safety studied the data on the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion.
Despite the debate over the numbers, the report is likely to add to the growing pressure on GM over the issue.
A US congressional committee has already launched an investigation into the recall.
GM issued the recall in February, but has admitted that employees knew about the problem as early as 2004.
The carmaker has also launched an internal inquiry to look into the matter.
Meanwhile the Center for Auto Safety also criticised the handling of the issue by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
It said the number of crashes due to the issue should have "raised a red flag".
Clarence Ditlow, the centre's executive director, said the "NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers".
The NHTSA's criticism follows a recent report by the New York Times which claimed the regulator had received more than 260 complaints over the past 11 years about GM vehicles that "suddenly turned off while being driven".