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The Volkswagen Atlas is a midsize SUV that debuted in 2017. It offers plenty of room for up to seven passengers with third-row seating. The Atlas also has an impressive towing capacity, making it ideal for hauling large items or taking the whole family on a road trip.

However, a notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was sent, warning owners not to allow anyone to ride in the front passenger seat until a repair is made to the vehicle’s airbag system. Let’s look at the VW Atlas and the recall in question.

Details of the Volkswagen Atlas

The Atlas, Volkswagen’s midsize SUV model, was introduced for the 2018 model year. It was refreshed for 2021 with some cosmetic updates and expanded AWD capability. For the 2024 model year, Volkswagen removed the previously available 276-hp V6 engine.

Now, every Atlas comes with the same engine: a 269-hp turbocharged four-cylinder with 273 lb-ft of torque. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission in either front- or all-wheel drive options. For the 2023 model, the fuel economy ratings are the most efficient, with the front-wheel drive version scoring ratings of 21 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

The VW Atlas recall

A white 2018 Volkswagen Atlas midsize, three-row SUV model crossing a bridge near forest trees and lakes
2018 Volkswagen Atlas | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

As reported by Car and Driver, Volkswagen is recalling 143,053 vehicles for the 2018–2021 VW Atlas and 2020 Atlas Cross Sport models to fix a problem in the passenger-side front airbag system. The occupant detection system in these vehicles could fail to detect if a passenger is sitting in the seat and deactivate the airbag. As a result, it would then fail to deploy in the event of an accident. The NHTSA report says an instrument panel light with an error message and an audible warning should alert owners if the airbag switches off.

The vehicle’s Body Sense passenger occupancy detection system is linked to the seat’s heating system by a wire under the front passenger seat, as stated in the recall report. The front passenger airbag could deactivate due to a contact failure in this wire. An updated cable with a shield was put into production in October 2022, so the issue is not present in more recent Atlas vehicles.

The Volkswagen Atlas isn’t the only recall

Consumer Reports says that due to the possibility that faulty Takata airbag inflators were inserted during repairs, Ford is recalling approximately 154,000 Ford Ranger pickup trucks, Ford Mustang and GT coupes, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX SUVs, and Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln MKZ sedans. This issue was so grave that the NHTSA says owners shouldn’t drive these vehicles unless they are taking them to a service center to remedy the recall. 

As for VW, one of Volkswagen’s largest recalls came in 1972 with a windshield wiper issue. This recall affected 3.7 million vehicles. In the late 1960s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started receiving numerous complaints from VW vehicle owners stating that the windshield wipers were loose. This created a hazard, causing drivers to struggle to see the road in difficult driving conditions. However, for that recall, owners were forced to pay for the new parts needed to fix the issue.

Unfortunately, recalls happen to many vehicles, and some are more dangerous than others. If you suspect your vehicle has outstanding recalls or just to check as a precaution, you can use the NHTSA VIN recall lookup tool. If you find that your car falls under a recall, you can take it to any dealership, and it will be fixed free of charge.

Related How Much Does a Fully Loaded 2023 Volkswagen Atlas Cost?

How Much Does a Fully Loaded 2023 Volkswagen Atlas Cost?