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Phantom Braking in the Volkswagen Atlas

246,000 Volkswagen Atlas SUVs were recalled in March 2022 in the United States and Canada for defects causing delayed deployment of the side airbag, inadvertent braking, and other electrical problems.

Recent model years of the Volkswagen Atlas have a surprising number of recalls. The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SUV alone has 12 recalls and 286 manufacturer communications. In fact, if you look up the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, this is what you will see:

Do not drive

This recall was in November 2020 for a steering issue caused by a damaged steering knuckle. If the steering knuckle is damaged, the driver may completely lose control of the steering, which is a major safety issue, and led to the warning that these SUVs should not be on the roads.

However, the massive March recall of 2019-2023 MY Volkswagen Atlas and 2020-2023 MY Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SUVs is not a result of a steering defect. It is due to defects in the airbags and braking of the Atlas, caused by a faulty wiring harness. In these vehicles, owners have reported a number of things happening:

  • Warning lights flashing on and off
  • Alarms and sensors going off
  • Driver side window rolling down inadvertently
  • Signs of a faulty door sensor
  • Unexpected braking

Some drivers have recalled that the flashing lights, alarms, and window rolling down happened just before the car braked by itself while others have reported that the SUV braked suddenly without warning. Although Volkswagen says that the unexpected braking only happens at very low speeds (up to 1.8 mph,) Volkswagen Atlas drivers say that they have experienced the braking at speeds up to 70 mph. Many defective Atlas drivers report that the inadvertent braking is happening multiple times, and some people have been put in very dangerous situations as a result. One driver recalled almost being rear ended when her Volkswagen Atlas SUV stopped completely without warning as she entered a roundabout.

The recall also warns of delays to deployment in the side airbags due to problems with the wiring harness and faulty electrical connections. Unlike the inadvertent braking and windows rolling down, this is a defect that you may only discover when it is too late. All too often, a driver only knows that their airbag is not working properly when they have already been in a wreck, and the airbag failed to do its job.

Although the recall was issued in March 2022, Volkswagen does not yet have the repair developed to fix the problems in these Volkswagen Atlas SUVs. It will not even send out the recall letter until May 10, 2022, and has stated that it will send a second letter when the remedy is available. Meanwhile, new Volkswagen Atlas owners are driving around in SUVs that may stop at any time, often without warning, and which one owner described as “possessed.”

Volkswagen advises customers experiencing any of these conditions to “contact an authorized Volkswagen dealer to have their vehicle diagnosed/repaired without delay.” However, the owners that have contacted their authorized Volkswagen dealer report that there are lengthy delays for parts and repairs. Volkswagen does not have the parts to make the necessary repairs, and owners have had to leave their SUVs at the dealership for months while waiting for repairs. Despite the fact that the Volkswagen Atlas is liable to brake without warning in traffic, some dealers have refused to provide a loaner vehicle because they do not consider this to be a safety issue. Disappointed Atlas owners are then left without any vehicle or out of pocket paying for a rental.

Lemon laws protect consumers from being out of pocket because their newly purchased vehicle is defective. Volkswagen Atlas owners have rights under lemon law to be reimbursed or given a replacement vehicle if their SUV has not been repaired after a certain length of time or number of repair attempts. They are also entitled to be compensated for out of pocket costs incurred because of the defects in their newly purchased vehicle. The lemon laws in each state are slightly different but an experienced lemon law attorney can advise you about your legal rights in your state, and in your specific situation.

If you have bought or leased a Volkswagen Atlas and you are experiencing problems with your vehicle or with your dealer, Timothy Abeel & Associates may be able to help. We have an experienced lemon law team with lawyers licensed in multiple states who can advise you of your rights and the options available to you. We have already helped other Volkswagen Atlas owners have their defective SUV bought back. Depending on the facts of your claim, you too may be eligible for a buyback, reimbursement, or compensation for your defective Volkswagen Atlas. And we will never charge you any fees. Contact one of our experienced team for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

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