Volvo Recalls Older Cars; Air Bag Inflators Can Explode

Volvo Recalls Older Cars; Air Bag Inflators Can Explode
The Volvo logo on a wheel of a 2019 S90 T6 AWD Inscription automobile is on display at the 2019 Pittsburgh International Auto Show in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Feb. 14, 2019. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

DETROIT—Volvo is recalling nearly 260,000 older cars in the United States because the front driver’s airbag can explode and send shrapnel into the cabin.

The recall is in addition to one from November of 2020, which was done after an unidentified U.S. driver was killed.

The latest recall covers S80 sedans from 2001 to 2006 and S60s from 2001 through 2009.

The problem is similar to widespread trouble with airbag inflators made by bankrupt Japanese airbag maker Takata. The company used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the airbags. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister.

At least 19 people in the United States and 28 worldwide have been killed by exploding Takata inflators. More than 400 have been injured in the United States.

The Volvo inflators, made by ZF/TRW, do not use ammonium nitrate, but the propellant can still deteriorate when exposed to high heat and humidity, according to documents posted Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Volvo said in the documents that the fatality is the only inflator rupture case that it knows of.

Tony Sapienza, spokesman for ZF/TRW, said the inflators were not sold to any other automakers in the United States. The company’s U.S. headquarters is in Livonia, Michigan, near Detroit.

Dealers will replace the inflators with new ones “with a modern state-of-the-art propellant/inflator,” the Volvo documents say. Owners will be notified by the letter starting Nov. 29.

Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from Volvo.

The original recall only covered cars from the 2001 through 2003 model years in southern states and territories with persistent high heat and humidity.

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