— A Volvo airbag death has led to a recall of more than 54,000 model year 2001-2003 S60 and S80 vehicles that were sold or registered in these locations:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Volvo airbag death involved a driver-side frontal airbag inflator manufactured by ZF Group that exploded and sent metal fragments into the driver.
The automaker didn't release information about the death, but Volvo, ZF and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believe it's the only reported Volvo airbag rupture fatality worldwide.
Volvo, ZF and NHTSA investigated the inflator rupture and believe moisture affected the propellant used to deploy the airbag. Although it's similar to stories involving exploding airbags supplied by Takata, the Volvo airbag death involves a different propellant.
Takata airbag inflator ruptures were caused by the propellant ammonium nitrate which became unstable when affected by heat, humidity and moisture. But according to Volvo, the airbags in the S60 and S80 vehicles "are from the introduction of propellant 5 AT 148 N."
It may be a different propellant which caused the Volvo airbag death, but the surrounding circumstances do involve heat, humidity and moisture as in the Takata inflator explosions.
Volvo says if the propellant tablets are exposed to elevated moisture levels and frequent high airbag inflator temperatures, the tablets can start to decay and form dust particles. Dust increases the burn surface area and burn rate, resulting in higher combustion chamber pressure and increasing the risk of a ruptured inflator.
According to documents filed with NHTSA, Volvo first learned about the airbag death in June 2019 when contacted by an attorney concerning the fatality.
Volvo Airbag Replacements May Take Months
Model year 2001-2003 S60 and S80 owners will likely have concerns after hearing about the Volvo airbag death, but the automaker says replacement airbags aren't ready to go.
Volvo will send interim recall notices to owners beginning January 4, 2021, then second recall notices will be sent when replacement airbags are available. According to the automaker, the parts should be available sometime during the first quarter of 2021.
A dealership will install a new "driver airbag with a modern state-of-the-art propellant/inflator."
Concerned S60 and S80 owners may call 866-870-2046 and ask about recall number R10058.