303 Deaths Linked to Delayed GM Recall Watchdog's number far greater than the 13 deaths earlier reported By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff Posted Mar 14, 2014 3:17 AM CDT 9 comments Comments The underbody of a Chevrolet Cobalt at the GM Lordstown plant, in Lordstown, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, file) (Newser) – General Motors' slow response to an ignition switch problem in two now-recalled models may be linked to hundreds more deaths than earlier believed, according to the Center for Auto Safety watchdog group. The group says 303 people died in the Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions between 2003 and 2012 when air bags failed to deploy, Reuters reports. A criminal inquiry has already been launched into GM's handling of the defect, which was earlier linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths. The defect—first reported as far back as 2001—sometimes caused engines and power systems to shut off when switches were bumped by heavy key chains, causing air bags and other features to fail, the New York Times explains. The 1.6 million cars affected were finally recalled last month. GM says the watchdog group's report is based on "raw data" and lacks "rigorous analysis." The firm says its own probe into the defect and recall is ongoing.