Don’t sit in front passenger seats of 2018-2021 Atlas SUVs, Volkswagen says in recall notice


More than 161,000 Volkswagen SUVs in the U.S. and Canada are being recalled due to a wiring defect that could deactivate the front passenger air bag, the company says.

Volkswagen says the recall includes Volkswagen Atlas SUVs from the 2018-2021 model years, and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles from 2020. There are more than 143,000 such vehicles in the U.S. and 18,235 in Canada, the company says.

The recall relates to potential faulty occupant-detection systems in front passenger seats.

The passenger occupant-detection system may experience a fault in the wiring, which could deactivate the front passenger air bag even when the seat is occupied. A deactivated air bag will not deploy in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury to the front seat passenger, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday.

Neither the company nor the transit regulator say they are aware of any crashes or injuries related to the recall.

Volkswagen is developing a fix, which it expects to be ready likely later this year. Until then, the company says passengers should not sit in the front passenger seat.

Automakers are required to have sensors that deactivate front passenger air bags if they sense the presence of children or small-stature adults, to prevent them from being seriously injured or killed when an air bag is deployed, an event that involves some force.

The German automaker began investigating the issue in August 2019. In a 2021 meeting, Volkswagen said “field data analysis indicates that the failure is highly sporadic and the warning light is illuminating immediately upon failure,” according to a summary filed with NHTSA.

In February, the auto safety agency requested a meeting to discuss the field performance of the Atlas Passenger Occupant Protection System, Volkswagen said. The automaker held a meeting with NHTSA on March 23 to discuss its recall decision.

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