• Feb 1, 2008
Two children tragically lost their lives when French driver Catherine Kohtz lost control of her Volvo 850. The 1999 incident, which Kohtz blamed on a loss of braking ability in her Volvo, has led to French courts handing down a finding of manslaughter. The guilty verdict against Volvo also carries an €200,000 fine, though Volvo holds that there wasn't anything wrong with the car's braking system and will likely appeal. Driver Kohtz was fined €300 and also sentenced to a six-month jail term, which was suspended.

Kohtz's accident was initially attributed to reckless operation, and tensions in the town of Wasselonne have been stirred by the circumstances of crash. Rumblings of Kohtz, relatively wealthy, having bought her way out of a more serious outcome for the death of two ten year olds from lesser means have been dividing the town in eastern France. An investigation determined that the brakes in the Volvo 850 suffered from a problem known to Volvo. Rather than recall 180,000 850s, Volvo is alleged to have quietly asked its dealers to fix a rubber pipe prone to rupture or detachment, causing a loss of braking ability. An investigating magistrate contended that service documents instructing dealers how to repair the problem were overly vague, leading to an improper and ineffective repair on Kohtz's car. For a company with such an emphasis on safety, its surprising that it would try to cover up a major flaw in such a crucial system. Volvo argued that the service documents that were seized outline an innocuous fault, and that something else like a loose water bottle behind the pedal was to blame.

[Source: BBC via Winding Road; The Independent]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 9 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Chris, follow the link to The Independent, in the source credits.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Having just dealt with Volvo on issues with my 08 xc70 I can see where Volvo would deny-deny-deny and cover up issues with their cars. The customer care department serves as nothing more the lip service for the dealer and company. Not at all impressed with Volvo service to their customers. They don't even try to act sincere.
      • 6 Years Ago
      While not related to a break defect issue, my 5 month old (new) S40 suffered a total loss of power while I was travelling at 120kph on the motorway. No dash lights, no headlights.....! Total darkness.

      Dealer and Volvo have stated they can find nothing wrong and car is 'safe' to drive.

      Until I started searching the internet I was beginning to believe I had a 'Monday' car. Not so - I have come across numerous blog posts on similar/same problems. Thankfully at the time of my incident (10pm) there was little traffic and I was on a straight stretch of road. The 'blackout' lasted about 2 seconds. I have refused to take back the car on the basis of it being 'unsafe' and I am now even more convinced that this issue is being denied by Volvo.

      What has to happen for this known problem to make the news? A crash and more deaths? Surely not.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ted, do a google search on "Volvo ABS Module Repair." There's a guy out west, Victor something if I remember correctly, who's well known in Volvo circles for repairing these ABS modules for WAY less than the $1,300 you were quoted...I think it's around $200 or less.

      -wishing I'd kept my '98 S70GLT, ABS problem and all, because the Saab 9-3 I replaced it with has been a POS.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The lady needs to take responsibilities for her actions and the fact that she killed her children by driving recklessly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Either way, the woman -had- to be aware of how much time she needed to brake, and so was still driving recklessly. I mean, seriously, "you killed two people. Give us 300, then you're good to go."

      What a joke! Over here, you could blame it all you want on something breaking in your car, you're still going to get punished for not driving defensively and being a complete moron.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I drive a '98 volvo s70 (getting a g35 soon) and the anti lock brakes have failed on them. I got some bids and they said it would be $1300 to fix and they said they get tons of volvos with the same problem. (abs control unit failure). Instead I just went to a driving course to figure out how to do threshold braking. I've only really wanted abs once in the past year, (slamming on the brakes on the freeway while raining) although knowing how to control the car probably saved me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I drive a '97 960 and I can tell you the rear brake design on these cars are inadequate. The dealer replaced mine twice and I went to the after market for brake pads and rotors. Althought the after market components helped, the problem is still excessive vibrations of the rear braking system therefore extending the braking distance. I always allow quite a bit more space between cars to compensate. This should have been a recall but I believe it would have required that they replace the entire system and that was too expensive...so they covered up the problem.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was set to defend Volvo, but after reading the rest, Volvo should be fined more loot than that. Although her vehicle was improperly repaired, things might have turned out a lot better for her if she drove defensively instead of reckless.