Safety of Volvos overrated?

Are Volvos as safe as they are reputed to be (i.e., best chance of surviving a crash), or is it just marketing? I’ve heard that with the advances made in recent years in safety technology, Volvos are no more safer than most other makes of cars.

Generally, Volvos are some of the safest cars around, which is not to say that others are not. A Google query will show you any number of articles attesting to this. In the SUV class, KIA and Mercedes equal Volvo’s 5-star safety rating. However, Volvo has built their reputation on safety and durability over the years and at one time was far ahead of other manufacturers in these regards.

Anecdotally, a good friend of mine totalled his Volvo sedan on a trip from Warsaw to Berlin. He escaped with a broken toe.

There are plenty of safe cars manufactured today. many just as good as a Volvo. However, you generally have to pay for safety. Where many manufacturers make safety equipment optional (where it is allowed to be optional) Volvo just includes it. Of course, even the least expensive of the Volvo’s aren’t exactly cheap. Certainly some low price cars manage to be safe as well but usually the pricier the car the more safety features you are likely to find (side impact bags, active head restraints, better brakes, anti-slip mechanisms, etc.).

What is interesting is the cost to repair some of these cars. Being safe is profitable in more ways than one for the car manufacturer. Having an energy absorbing body is a great thing fro the occupant but that energy has to go somewhere which generally means that even a fairly minor accident will damage the car more than you think. The car is taking the brunt instead of the passenger so overall a good tradeoff but I’ve had a few friends get into slightly more than a fender-bender and were appalled at the damage and repair bill. I was in a taxi cab that hit a Volvo once. The cab was one of those big Caprice Classics…Volvo an S-60 IIRC. Cab showed almost no damage (scratched a little and bumper was slightly bent). The Volvo was a mess (crumpled fenders, hood, bumper seriously askew).

If ever there was an OP I was qualified to answer. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:
(For those that don’t know, I work for Volvo Cars)

Volvo’s safety record over the years is unmatched by any other carmaker IMHO.

This results from our history, here is a quote from the founders of our company

Later after Gabrielsson and Larson had retired a man by the name of Engellau became the president of Volvo. Mr. Engellau’s wife was a nurse who worked in rehabilitation of accident victims, including auto accident victims. She would tell her husband about the injuries that she observed and told him that cars needed to be safer. In 1958 Engellau hired an engineer from SAAB aerospace named Nils Bohlin. Bohlin was charged with finding a way to protect occupants in auto accidents. Bohlin came up with the idea of the three-point seat belt. The idea was demonstrated to management (using a model car made of wood, and two eggs. First egg with no belt SPLAT! Second egg with a belt, no damage). Management approved and in 1959 three-point belt appeared for the first time on Volvo Cars. In 1967 three point belts were added to the rear outboard seating positions. Volvo BTW holds the patent for the three-point seat belt, but we have never enforced this patent. We gave that to the industry. :cool:

Also since the 1970 Volvo has had an accident investigation team working in Sweden. When a Volvo is involved in an accident the police notify Volvo. We send investigators to work with the Police. If the accident looks like it might supply information that is new, the accident is recreated in our safety center under controlled conditions. To the best of my knowledge we are the only carmaker that does this.

Great Rick, that is old news, what has Volvo done recently?
Well let’s see
[li]First side impact airbag [/li][li]First inflatable curtain covering both front and rear seat passengers[/li][li]First quadruple 5 star crash rating[/li][li]First SUV with a rollover protection system (which BTW Toyota just announced that they will start putting a similar system on all of their SUV’s) [/li][li]First SUV with head protection for all three rows of seats[/li][li]Opened the world’s most state of the art Safety center [/li][/ul]

Yes car safety has come a long way since the days of no seat belts. Yes other carmakers make safe cars. But here is where the analysis can get a little murky. Car A got a 5 star rating for Driver frontal collision, and Driver offset frontal collision. Car B got a 5 star and a 4 star rating. Is A safer that B? If you had the exact accident that is being preformed in the test, then the answer is yes, however if you accident varies from the standard accident then the answer is I don’t know. In some accidents car B could well outperform car A. This is why in addition to crash tests you should look at real world accident data. In 1992 USA Today did a study on car safety. They discovered that from 1986 to 1991 in the USA no person in a Volvo 240 involved in an accident died. This record was unmatched by any other car model.

** Whack-a-Mole** You’re right new cars do crumple a lot when hit. They are supposed to do that. If the car does not crumple the energy from the accident is transferred into the cabin and you are exposed to it. If the car crumples the energy is absorbed there and you are not exposed to those forces. The difference is that when you are exposed to these forces the pain can be intense, long lasting and spare body parts are hard to come by. When the car is exposed to these forces there may be a sharp localized pain the area of the wallet, repairs take a few days to a week and spare parts are a phone call away. :slight_smile: Given the choice I will take a crumpled car anytime.

Many time when people find out that I work for Volvo they tell me stories about how they totaled a Volvo, and how the police told them that they would not be alive today if they had been in another type of car. So many people over the years sent thank you letters to Volvo that Volvo started a club called the Volvo saved my Life Club

So are Volvo’s the safest car on the road? Every accident is different every car is different. But with that said, knowing what I know, if I knew that I was going to be in an accident, I would want to be in a Volvo.



Out of curiosity… I’ve noticed that there are only Volvo cars in the parking lot of the Volvo head office in Toronto. Do Volvo employees get deep discounts on them, or are they all company-issued cars?

Rick, while I agree with most things you’ve said, the truth, as always, tends to be shades of grey and not an absolute. This spring, some investigative reporters dug into a series of problems re: newer Volvos and spontaneus (sp?) combustion. The cars simply started to burn, while people were driving. No high speeds, nothing out of the ordinary, just woosh, and the engine is burning, completely destroying the car within minutes.
Volvo official spokespersons were very reluctant in admitting anything, even to the point of denying that it was a built in fault. Explanations varied and one that was offered as the probable cause was grass. The spokesperson from Volvo offered the explanation that when people drive on grass, some tend to come off the lawn and get stuck inside the engine compartment, where it catches fire.

Independant experts in Germany and the US claimed that the problem actually was using too much plastic in a very cramped space. Anyone who’s checked under the hood of a new car know how tight everything is, and how hard it is to do any kind of work in there. To get the horsepowers up, getting good gas milage and keeping the weight down, Volvo, and other car makers, use a lot of of plastic in the engine compartment. Should something come loose, it can easily get over heated an catch fire.

Volvo was not happy about this tv story (made by our own version of 60 minutes) and if you want me to, I can probably dig up links, though they would be in Swedish.

So in a way, Volvo was the leader, but the preassure in the market has made them slide recently. The 240 was a very safe car. It’s not manufactured anymore.

** aleong** It would be a combo of company cars and leased/owned cars. We do get a “deal” on cars, but not what we used to get. The Toronto office is both a head office and warehouse. You can figure that the wheels drive company cars, the workers drive their own cars.

The Gaspode I completly agree with you about the truth not always being black or white. That was what I was trying to point out when I discussed crash test ratings.
I am unfamilar with any ongoing fire investgations concerning our cars. I am not trying to say that there is not one, but I don’t know of any.
As far as the company spokspersons being non committal all I can say is that need to be very careful about what they say. Swedes aren’t as sue happy as people in the US, thank God. But if someone says the wrong thing (even if incorrect) in Sweden it could cause a sue frenzy over here.

As far as independent experts go, if you look hard enough you can get an expert to testify to anything. And never forget investagive reporters are not always unbiased. Proof of that would be 60 minutes and Audi, or the Chevy trucks with side saddle gas tanks and Dateline(?) where it turned out to get the truck to catch on fire, they mounted fireworks near the gas tank, and got caught by GM. :smack:

As far as your comment about Volvo and the 240, All I can say is that when the 240 came out no other car was close it in safety. Our newer cars are actually safer than a 240 (by both crash tests and real world experience) but other car makers are making safer cars now also. So while we are still a leader, we don’t have the same lead we once did.

Just my personal experience, but my wife has a Volvo S70 and she has a habit of running it into things. Hard.

Neither she or my daughter have ever been slightly injured in accidents I’d be quite afraid to get into in my car.

I don’t think any car maker would to admit to a problem right after hearing about it. Car companies in general are very reluctant in admitting defects. ie. Ford with their exploding police cars, VW with burning oil, Jeeps with bad fuel gauges, etc.

aleong, one of the most fundamental philosoplies in the auto business is “drive what you build.”

And although rick didn’t answer you, the company I work for gives employee discounts on Volvo (for us salaried guys), so I imagine Volvo proper does, too. :slight_smile:


What part of

wasn’t clear or did not answeraleong’s question?

Oh and zoid that is why we build them that way. :smiley:


I recall an accident on Boston’s Central Artery about 10 years ago where a tractor-trailer jumped the Jersey barriers and landed head on onto a Volvo, maybe a 760. The front end of the Volvo pretty much ceased to exist. The woman who was driving in the Volvo walked away IIRC.

Good stuff. The self-sacrificial aspects of their design can be expensive, but any vehicle that has deploys air bags is gonna cost a ton, regardless of the sheetmetal damage…


Well acyually I dont think that’s true in UK. The safest car is not a Volvo, I remember a few years ago the government released figures on the safest cars based on if passengers survived crashes, and the top car was the Jaguar XJ6

I recall Volvo got caught cheating. They were talking safety - showed a monster truck crushing domestic cars but it could not crush the Volvo.

The truth: Volvo reinforced the car so the monster truck would not crush it.

Not that this type of thing makes or breaks a car on safety, but it shows what a company will do to further or continue a reputation.

If they are not already well they certainly will be with the next model. I hear it has a special immobiliser that detects the owner approaches and totally deactivates the car locking/unlocking system, thus preventing the owner getting in an injuring himself. :wink:

To be fair, they did not show other makes of cars being crushed by trucks; they only showed a truck on top of a Volvo to underline their safety image. But, as you said, the car was reinforced, so it was misleading.

Volvo owner checking in here. I used to have a 240D and now drive a 740 Turbo. Both are great cars and I have never felt safer than when I’m behind the wheel of a Volvo. Their reliability gives them another dimension of safety as well. Rarely have I been stalled at the roadside in either of my Volvos. Being stranded on the wrong side of the tracks can get you killed just as quickly as having a head on collision.

Volvo has typically been years ahead of Detroit in terms of passenger safety. Until that changes, I’ll be driving Volvos for the foreseeable future.

Actually the story is somewhat more complex than that B & I
The story starts off with a Volvo owner going to a monster truck show here in the US. The promoters would line up a bunch of junk cars and the monster trucks drive over them. Usually the first pass would flatten the roofs down to the tops of the doors. After several passes the line of cars would looks like they had been through a car crusher.
Anyway this night things went a little different. There was a Volvo in the line of junk cars. First pass was made. All the cars were crushed as expected except for the Volvo. A second, and a third pass were made. The Volvo roof was still intact. Finally after one or two more passes, the driver of the MT did a wheel stand and dropped the front end onto the Volvo and the roof came down. I think it was six passes before the roof was flat. The Volvo owner mailed a letter to Volvo describing what he saw and mentioned that it would make a great ad. The letter was passed around, decisions were made and arrangements were made to get everything together to film both print and TV ads.
In the preparation for the shoot when the still photos were discussed it was decided that since the truck would be parked on top of the Volvo for the still shots that the roof should be reinforced in the interest of driver safety. Since they were re-creating an actual event this is considered OK, and not “cheating”.
All they had to do was insert the words "Re-creation of an actual event” or “dramatization” and everyone would be home free.
So the ad was filmed. Posters were printed. Showing a line of smashed cars, the monster truck parked on top of the Volvo with the tag line “Can you spot the Volvo?” TV time was bought. The ads started running. Guess what was left out of the ads? You got it, the magic get out of jail free words "Re-creation of an actual event” or “dramatization”
The Texas Atty General announced an investigation, and of course Volvo was drug through the mud. Our ad agency resigned the account.

[Paul Harvey voice]
Page 2
For the next several months every time a monster truck show ran anywhere in the US, everyone wanted to see a Volvo get crushed. So a Volvo was included to please the fans. Guess what? The damn things don’t crush like other cars. I recall one TV news show covering one of these shows live, boy did that guy look unhappy when the Volvo did not crush and you could see he wasn’t going to get to use the lines he had written. :smiley:

Prior to this Volvo had an ad about roof strength
You can see it here where the Swedes stacked 7 road worthy 140 sedans one on top of the other. Also in the 80’s Volvo ran a print ad where they showed a large delivery truck sitting on top of a 740. A viewer of David Horowitz’s TV Fight Back program challenged this ad. Fight Back was a popular consumer affairs program where among other features viewers would write in and ask David to verify the validly of companies ad claims. Anyway David went to Volvo, Volvo supplied video of the stacking of the 140’s for the first time in Sweden (where a gust of wind blew the stack over!), the first truck on a 740 (again in Sweden, it was a Coke-cola truck) to pictures of the filming of the print ad. His verdict? The ad was valid, no deception.
And now you know the rest of the story

** The Griffin** read what I wrote

One study does not make Jag safer over the years Unless of course you want to argue that Jags are safer due to their Lucas electrical system that don’t allow them to start, as it very hard to be in a fatal accident while parked in your garage.
::: Ducks and runs:::
[Required Lucas joke] If Lucas made assult rifles, wars wouldn’t start either.

Rick, thanks for the other side of the story.

I have hit a tree with the roof and hood in a Mustang - it was over ten years ago. Car was in the air and first thing to hit was the roof/hood contact - it was quite spectacular. Thankfully I walked away. But with that type of record a Volvo might be a good choice for me.

I always tried to catch Fight Back - great show.

Rick, thanks for the other side of the story.

I have hit a tree with the roof and hood in a Mustang - it was over ten years ago. Car was in the air and first thing to hit was the roof/hood contact - it was quite spectacular. Thankfully I walked away. But with that type of record a Volvo might be a good choice for me.

I always tried to catch Fight Back - great show.