Fastlane

March 14, 2014

Recall Update: Be Cautious When Speculation is Presented as Fact

Recent media reports have cited a misleading report that links airbag non-deployments with fatalities in some of the models under the ignition switch recall.

Recent media reports have cited a misleading report that links airbag non-deployments with fatalities in some of the models under the ignition switch recall.

The 303 fatality figure reported in a Center for Automotive Safety (CAS) study should not be associated with the subject recall.    Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions and can confuse or mislead.    We presently have identified 12 such deaths.  If, in the course of our internal review, we identify any others, we will, of course, promptly bring that to the attention of regulators.

Regarding FARS…this system records airbag non-deployments with every major manufacturer. This aspect has been studied and reported in several publications.  Reported non-deployments occur due to a wide variety of reasons that can’t be attributed to any specific component.

The leap that is made by the CAS study is akin to saying a man who weighs 250 pounds is overweight, without considering that he stands 6-5 or is a bodybuilder.  Any study that only looks at one factor is not credible.

We’ve been down this road before as the Kansas City Star attempted the same “analysis” several years before.

The Star’s reporting resulted in an independent research study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Study Center for Trauma and EMS.  In their paper—which you can read for yourself on NHTSA’s website, no less, at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/esv/esv21/09-0199.pdf  they explain the flaws of using raw FARS data to derive conclusions.

For example as cited in the report, air bags are in fact engineered so that they do NOT always deploy in every instance.  Even if the figure cited is accurate, in some of those cases, the air bags may have functioned exactly right by NOT deploying.

No one knows that by looking at the raw data alone.  Injecting that figure into the public discussion without the analysis it requires is unfair to everyone trying to work through this process.  The recall is serious.  At GM, we are treating it as such.

Research is underway at GM and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing.   While this is happening, we are doing all we can now to ensure our customers’ safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today’s GM is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust.


Selim Bingol is the former Senior Vice President, Global Communications & Public Policy for General Motors.

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