Fatal Volvo Airbag Incident Leads to 54,000-Vehicle Recall

Volvo is commonly known as the manufacturer of some of the safest cars on the road. However, the Swedish manufacturer has just recalled more than 54,000 cars due to a deadly airbag issue. The recall affects 2001-2003 S80 and S60 models sold in the U.S. According to Bloomberg, The faulty airbag equipment has unfortunately resulted in at least one death.

Volvo recalls 2001-2003 S80 and S60 models

A photo of the 2000 Volvo S80 outdoors.
Volvo S80 | Volvo

If you’ve got a relatively new Volvo, you’re safe from this recall. The airbag issue covered in this recall affects 2001-2003 S80 and S60 models sold in the U.S. However, given Volvo’s track record for dependability, there is a high probability that these near-20-year-old cars are still on the road today.

The main issue doesn’t surround the airbag itself. Instead, the airbag’s inflator is to blame for the recall. According to Reuters, high levels of humidity can cause premature deterioration of the airbag’s inflator. The result is that when the airbag deploys in the event of an accident, the inflator may rupture. As the inflator ruptures, it can send metal fragments flying through the cabin, striking passengers.

That’s the peculiar thing about this recall. While your vehicle’s structure and airbag may save you from the impact, a metal fragment from the inflator could prove deadly.

These airbag fragments resulted in 1 death

A photo of the 2000 Volvo S60 outdoors.
Volvo S60 | Volvo

Unfortunately, there has been one death linked to this Volvo airbag issue. As of writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms that this one death is the only incident linked to this issue. Given the severity of the injuries, Volvo contacted the NHTSA as soon as it learned of the accident.

According to Reuters, the Swedish carmaker and the NHTSA have discussed the issue extensively since August 2019. Since those initial meetings, Volvo launched an internal investigation to determine if further action was needed to ensure that no other injuries occur. This new recall confirms that there is definitely a potential for future injury.

Thankfully, given the age of these cars, the amount still on the road is not the full 54,000 being recalled. According to The Washington Post, Volvo and the NHTSA looked through their records and found that approximately 13,800 of these cars are still on the road today.

Here’s what you should do if you own an affected Volvo

A photo of the 2000 Volvo S60 outdoors.
Volvo S60 | Volvo

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If you’ve got one of the affected Volvos, here’s what you should do. For starters, you’ll want to contact your nearest dealer to schedule an appointment to get your airbags replaced. The Swedish carmaker has stated that it will replace all of the affected parts free of charge. However, since these affected vehicles are older, parts may be harder to come by. As a result, Reuters reports that replacement parts should become available in March 2021. Given the long wait for replacement parts, you’ll want to make sure you get an appointment as soon as possible.

To ensure that the issue does not repeat itself, Volvo has decided to alter the airbag design instead of just fitting a replacement unit. Instead of using the aforementioned faulty inflator, these new airbags use a modern propellant and inflator to withstand high levels of humidity.

Given the severity of the past Takata airbag recall, which resulted in over 63 million vehicles recalled, Volvo is understandably trying to take action as quickly as possible. Hopefully, their efforts are successful, and we see no further injuries.