Volkswagen Canada announces airbag fix for recalled Atlas SUVs after almost one year wait

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Volkswagen owner waiting a year for airbag fix'
Consumer Matters: Volkswagen owner waiting a year for airbag fix
After almost a year since a major recall for front passenger airbags, Volkswagen Canada has announced a fix for select model year 2018 – 2021 Atlas SUVs. As Consumer Matters' Anne Drewa reports, it's welcome news for one B.C. woman who has been frustrated with the long delay – Mar 28, 2024

A Volkswagen Canada customer waiting almost a year for a recall repair for her 2018 Atlas will finally get a fix.

However, Martina Rempel says the wait has been frustrating. “Every time I bring my car in for a tune-up about the recall there are no answers,” Rempel told Consumer Matters.

In April 2023, more than 161,000 SUVs in the U.S. and Canada were recalled for select model year 2018 to 2021 Atlas and 2020 Atlas Cross Sport Vehicles because of problems with the front passenger airbag.

According to Transport Canada, there are over 18,235 such vehicles in Canada. The agency says at issue is the passenger occupant detection system which may malfunction which could cause the airbag system to turn off the passenger front airbag even when a passenger is seated.

It says an airbag turned off could increase the risk of injury in a crash. That safety risk means Volkswagen owners like Rempel have been instructed to avoid having anyone sit in the front passenger seat of their vehicle.

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“Not having anyone sit in the front seat for a year is not a solution,” said Rempel.

Click to play video: 'Volkswagen owners get help from ‘Consumer Matters’'
Volkswagen owners get help from ‘Consumer Matters’

However, a few days after Consumer Matters interviewed Rempel and reached out to Volkswagen Canada for answers a spokesperson for the automaker apologized for the delay stating: “The repair for this recall has just gone into effect. Ms. Rempel should be receiving a letter from Volkswagen any day now.”

Transport Canada also confirmed to Consumer Matters: “On March 22, 2024, Volkswagen Canada began notifying by mail all Canadian owners of 2018 and 2019 model year VW Atlas SUVs subject to Transport Canada recall No. 2023-183 to advise that the recall repairs are now available and to contact their local dealer to make an appointment. As corrective actions for this safety defect, dealers will replace the Passenger Occupant Detection System (PODS) sensor mat and seat harness.”

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Car Help Canada, which helps consumers with purchasing a vehicle says the auto industry as a whole is still suffering from a severe parts shortage and many auto manufacturers have long waiting periods for parts.

However, the non-profit is demanding change referring to Quebec’s recently adopted legislation, Bill 29, which the organization says implements strict rules around parts supply, repair deadlines, and penalties for manufacturers who fail to comply.

Car Help Canada says it is advocating for similar rules in other provinces. “It would apply in so far as the manufacturer has to have parts made available to complete the recall work. Yes, it has to be done by a dealership, but the point is they have to have the parts and they have to be able to complete the repair within an agreed period of time.” Shari Prymak executive director of Car Help Canada said.

The information related to the airbag recall is now updated on Transport Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database.

Transport Canada is also encouraging VW Atlas owners to call Volkswagen Canada’s Customer Relations at 1-800-822-8987 to ensure their vehicle is registered with the manufacturer to receive recall notifications.

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