At six-foot-four, Phil de Manbey was challenged to find a new vehicle that’s both comfortable and suited to the 100,000 kilometres he logs on the road every year running his business.
He finally bought a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, a popular sports-utility vehicle that ticked off all his boxes.
Driving from home to his Scarborough office this month, de Manbey got a surprise sitting behind the wheel of the Atlas, which he’d picked up at the dealership 10 days earlier.
“And then, bang, like a gunshot, the roof just exploded,” de Manbey told Global News in a recent interview.
He said he was on the telephone with his daughter at the time.
“She thought she had spoken to her dad for the last time, she was in shock,” de Manbey said.
He recalled pulling off Highway 407 and then into the lot of a nearby Volkswagen dealer where he called police.
de Manbey said officers scoured the highway for evidence he’d been hit by a weapon, a brick, concrete, or another falling object. He said police concluded nothing had struck his vehicle.
Even so, Volkwagen refused to accept responsibility or cover the cost of repairs.
“Denial, absolute denial,” said de Manbey, adding he since filed an insurance claim.
Volkswagen eventually agreed to pay $500 toward the cost of his insurance deductible.
“This event was not in any way due to a manufacturing defect and is not covered by the vehicle’s warranty,” Volkswagen spokesperson Thomas Tetzlaff told Global News in a statement.
“Our technical experts were able to examine the evidence and have determined that the cause of the sunroofs shattering to be a direct impact from an outside source, likely a rock or other bit of road debris.”
According to a spokesperson for Transport Canada, which is responsible for overseeing vehicle safety, the department received 66 complaints “related to 13 different Volkswagen models since 2002.”
“Of the 66 complaints, 56 were specific to shattered sunroof issues,” Sau Sau Liu said in an email to Global News.
But so far, there has been only one sunroof-related complaint involving the Atlas and it related to a leaking issue. de Manbey said he has not yet filed a report with Transport Canada.
Since 2017, Global News has reported on shattered sunroof issues involving a range of automakers including Honda, Mazda, Kia, Toyota, Ford, BMW, and Hyundai.
de Manbey’s Atlas still has not been repaired. He said he’s worried about what could happen with a less experienced driver behind the wheel.
“I was able to maintain control. This won’t happen to a young driver,” de Manbey said.