Faulty General Motors Airbags Linked To 303 Deaths, So Now The Justice Department Is Getting Involved

General Motors' list of problems keeps getting longer: During an ongoing investigation into the company's decade-long failure to address an ignition-switch problem, new reports reveal 303 people died after airbags failed to deploy on recalled models. The massive recall of 1.6 million cars in the United States, Mexico, and Canada has the Justice Department and Congress looking into GM's procedures. Of course, news of numerous deaths that could have possibly been prevented only adds fuel to the growing fire.

GM linked 12 deaths and 31 accidents to the faulty switch, according to NBC, but the new number unearthed by the Center for Auto Safety is staggering and a long way from a dozen — 303. The defect in particular models meant that the ignition could inadvertently turn off if the driver's key chain was too heavy, causing the car to stall and preventing safety features such as airbags from doing their job.

The report takes a new look at numbers between 2003 and 2007, and criticizes GM for not acting quickly enough to report the problems. We're talking about hundreds of lives, and federal regulators are, understandably, none too happy. The U.S. Attorney's office in New York also opened a criminal investigation into GM to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing on the company's part. Last month, the company released data detailing they had first learned of the issue as early as 2001, and didn't take any action.

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Addressing the consumer watchdog group responsible for the new information, GM said it was all "raw data" and "without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions."

What we know for certain is that there's going to be more digging into employee involvement and years of records. Mary Barra, GM's chief executive and the world's first female CEO in the auto industry, is handling the crisis in the first months of her tenure and wrote a letter to company employees: "I appreciate how today’s GM has responded so far,” she wrote.