Recall Alert: A Volvo Airbag Killed A Driver, Now 650,000 Dangerous Vehicles Are Recalled

Article Highlights for the Volvo recalls:

  • A fatal Volvo airbag explosion triggered an investigation
  • The company recalled 500,000 pre-2010 S60s and S80s
  • Now 2001-06 V70s and XC70s at risk for the same issue

The Volvo company is expanding its recall of deadly airbags. Affected models now include the S60, S80, V70, and XC70. All the vehicles involved in this particular recall are from 2009 or earlier. In addition, an unrelated airbag control unit failure plagues 2021 Volvos and spurred a separate recall.

The Volvo airbag recall saga

This is a photo of a deflated airbag. A fatal inflator malfunction drove the Volvo recall of S60, S80, V70, and XC70 vehicles. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Malfunctioning inflators can turn airbags deadly | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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The Volvo built its reputation on safety. Then, when an older Volvo’s driver-side airbag deployed, its inflator device ruptured. The resulting explosion fired metal shrapnel into the car’s occupants, killing one person.

Volvo safety engineers immediately began an internal investigation. The automaker also met with regulators in every country where it sold vehicles. This included U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA and Volvo first agreed to recall 54,000 S80s and S60s from model years 2001, 2002, and 2003. Both the government administration and Volvo continued investigating airbag inflators and soon decided to recall additional vehicles. On September 30th, Volvo expanded to 460,769 S60s and S80s from between 2001 and 2006. Now, Volvo is recalling another 194,546 vehicles. The latest recalled vehicles are V70 and XC70 wagons from 2001 through 2007. 

Why your 2001-2007 XC70 or V70 Volvo wagon’s airbag may be dangerous

An airbag inflator is a small explosive device also known as a squib. In an explosion, it detonates and creates nitrogen gas. When working correctly, the airbag has inflated and then begun to deflate inside of 50 milliseconds. The aim is for you to strike your airbag as it is deflating so it can ease you forward.

Volvo reports that the inflator squibs in some of its airbags are deteriorating rapidly. This is because temperature swings allow humidity to mix with the detonator’s propellant. The result is a larger explosion than engineered. The inflator should only create enough nitrogen to fill the airbag. But affected inflators are blowing apart and injuring drivers.

You may feel like airbags keep getting recalled. This is because a manufacturer named Takata supplied airbags to brands ranging from Cadillac to Toyota. Takata airbag inflators suffered a similar malfunction to the Volvo inflators, and the NHTSA recalled over 67 million of them. However, Volvo is not part of the Takata recall. This is because Volvo airbag inflators are not Takata units. German manufacturer ZF supplies Volvo’s inflators.

Next steps for the Volvo recall

The NHTSA and Volvo have issued recall #21V-800 for V70s and XC70s from between 2001 and 2007. The manufacturer will send letters to owners of known, impacted vehicles on December 14th. But if your Volvo is one of the at-risk models, you do not have to wait until December for more information.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a vehicle safety hotline for owners: 1-888-327-4236. If you want to ask about your V70 or XC70, use the campaign reference number 21V-800. If you want to ask about your S60 or S80, cite the number 21V-766.

You can also contact your local Volvo dealership. Once Volvo has supplied the dealers with replacement parts, trained technicians will swap every affected airbag free of charge. Volvo’s available for customer service at 1-800-458-1552.

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