What You Need to Know About Volvo's Biggest Recall Ever

2.18 million cars globally, built between 2006 and 2019, are being recalled for a seat belt cable issue. 

Volvo

Good morning and welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive's daily roundup of what matters in the world of cars and transportation. Today we're talking about a massive Volvo recall, concerns over coronavirus at a Texas General Motors plant that could lead to a shutdown, and what the fancy new Kia K5 means to a struggling sedan market. 

Volvo's Big Recall

Even in this era of ever-growing mandatory safety regulations and intense crash tests, Volvo still does safety bigger and better than most automakers. So it's no surprise to me that it takes recalls over safety issues pretty seriously, and it's about to undertake the biggest one ever in its 93-year history. 

It's 2.18 million cars globally, including 300,000 in the U.S., according to Automotive News. It affects the Volvo S60, S60L, S60 Cross Country, V60, V60 Cross Country, XC60, V70, XC70, S80 and S80L made between 2006 and 2019. That's not all the Volvos in recent years, but it's most of them. (Also, I forgot the S60 Cross Country was a thing. We need more off-road sedans.)

The issue, as Reuters reports, is this:

“The issue is related to a steel cable connected to the front seat belts,” it said. “The cable may, under certain rare circumstances and user behaviors, over time suffer from fatigue. This could eventually cause damage to the cable, resulting in reduced seat belt restraint function.”

Having said that, Volvo says it's not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem, which could help explain why it's just now being caught 15 years later. Anyway, I've seen worse and scarier recalls, but if you own a Volvo of that vintage, make sure to get it fixed soon. 

UAW Wants Texas GM Plant To Hit Pause

America's auto factories are back up and running, though generally not at full capacity quite yet and with new and aggressive safety measures in place. But those can't solve every problem that may come up in a pandemic, nor can they prevent every new coronavirus infection. With Texas firmly in coronavirus hotspot mode, the local chapter of the United Auto Workers union has asked GM to halt production at its Dallas-area Arlington Assembly plant. The plant makes large SUVs like the Suburban, Yukon and Escalade. 

The plant has had at least one positive coronavirus test as of mid-June, but it seems the UAW is primarily concerned with skyrocketing cases in the DFW metro area and the state in general. After all, you can have safety measures at your plant, but you can't control what your workers do in their off-hours, or what they bring into the plant. Here's more from The Detroit News:

In a June 29 report posted on the Local 276 website, the local's shop committee wrote: "Due to the most recent data on the Covid-19 outbreak, the Bargaining Committee has asked General Motors to shut down Arlington Assembly until the curve is flattened for the benefit and well-being of our members. Every day we are setting new records in the number of people who are testing positive in the Dallas-Fort Worth area."

The report comes after workers voiced similar concerns at two metro Detroit Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV plants, causing production to stop there temporarily before resuming.

With safety protocols in place to protect their workforce, automakers have pushed to progressively get back to full production following an eight-week shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. FCA and Ford Motor Co. have said they are now back at full, pre-coronavirus production levels, and GM is slated to be this week.

"There have been no changes to our production plans at Arlington because our safety protocols are working, thanks to a strong team effort," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. "Many of the same steps we follow inside our plants can help keep people safe when they’re not working, and that includes staying home if you’re not well, social distancing when you leave home, frequent hand washing and the use of masks."

Contractually, GM, not the union, gets to decide whether or not to halt production. Dallas County has more than 20,000 coronavirus cases with more than 350 deaths so far. The pandemic is, sadly, far from over. 

The 2021 Kia K5 Fights For Sedan Relevance

We all know the crossovers, trucks and SUVs are taking over the world. The sedan and small market has tanked hard in recent years, and even amid an economic downturn, when people buy new, they buy big. (I question the wisdom of financing $60,000 pickup trucks in a shaky economy, but that's just me.) So what do automakers do to make the sedan market more compelling, if they aren't abandoning it entirely the way that Ford did? 

In many cases, it means making sedans sexier, more high-tech, more "coupe-like" in design and more focused on driving dynamics. Crossovers, with their higher ride height, often can't match that. The new 2021 Kia K5 is a great example. It may not be a low-key BMW-fighter like the Stinger, but it's a sharp car that seems great on paper: optional dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive, 290 horsepower, zero to 60 mph under six seconds, etc. It's definitely a step up from the Optima it replaces, and that was in no way a bad car. 

But it's got a long way to go to be a sales hit. Here's CNBC on the hard numbers:

After being introduced in 2010, the Optima quickly became the automaker’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Sales surged to nearly 160,000 units in 2015. They’ve since rapidly declined 39.4% through 2019. Optima sales were off another 16% through the first five months of this year.

Kia’s overall sales last year were up 4.4% to more than 615,000 vehicles compared to 2018. Sales this year are down about 13% through May compared to the same time period in 2019.

If a sedan is what you want, the game is better than ever. But vote with your dollars before they disappear forever. 

On Our Radar

Subaru to switch to quarterly U.S. sales reports (Automotive News)

Japan's new auto sales skid 23% year-on-year in June: industry data (Reuters)

How Uber Turned a Promising Bikeshare Company Into Literal Garbage (Vice)

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A Night With the New York City Fireworks Crews (Slate)

Your Take

How does the sedan market survive as the masses go big on crossovers? Should more sedans be off-road sedans, like the S60 Cross Country? I vote yes.