Volkswagen Atlas Second-Row Seat Latch Class Action Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit filed in October 2021 against German automaker Volkswagen alleges that certain Volkswagen Atlas models contain a defect that causes the second-row seat to pull forward, placing passengers at risk of injury. This alleged seat latch defect affects 2018-2021 Volkswagen Atlas models. Plaintiffs say that the automaker intentionally concealed its knowledge of the faulty design of these seat latches.
The class action suit asserts that the seat latches should last the lifetime of the vehicle and that the owner’s manuals of the Volkswagen Atlas make no mention of the latches requiring maintenance, thus, Volkswagen made no mention to consumers of the potential issues with these components. Plaintiffs say that the automaker failed to institute recalls or cover the costs of repair under express warranties, instead placing those costs directly onto consumers. Additionally, three plaintiffs in the suit accuse dealers of refusing to repair their seats outright.
Because of this, plaintiffs accuse Volkswagen of “fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of implied warranties, violations of consumer fraud and unfair and deceptive trade practices statutes.” Despite Volkswagen’s apparent knowledge of the problem, the company has ultimately failed to both remedy these safety concerns and make them publicly known to consumers.
The suit also insists that the seat latch defect in the Volkswagen Atlas is particularly dangerous for young children and infants. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has logged numerous complaints from Atlas owners whose children were injured after the second-row seats folded over while driving. Parents have reported that their children were injured after their second-row seats lurched forward and slammed them into the front passenger seat, resulting in abrasions and other injuries to the face.
The Volkswagen Atlas is a sports utility vehicle that was designed to compete with SUVs from other automakers such as the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander. First released in 2018, Volkswagen has marketed the Atlas as a “boldly designed midsize SUV that’s mom-and-dad-friendly, not mom-and-pop-looking.” These are the first American-made sport-utility vehicles produced by Volkswagen, manufactured alongside the Volkswagen Passat at the auto giant’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Over 80,000 Atlas vehicles were sold in 2019 alone.
The Atlas has three rows of seating that can accommodate up to seven people. The vehicle also has three sets of LATCH connectors for the car seats situated in the second row. These latches are needed so that the second-row seats can be folded down for occupants to access seats in the third row. These seats can also be folded down to create more storage space.
Consumer complaints about seat latch problems in the Atlas were first made in March 2018. Despite these early reports, Volkswagen continued to market the Atlas as a safe, family-ready vehicle, stating on its website that “safety is a core value to us. And while we can’t predict everything you might encounter, we can and do spend long hours trying to help you prepare for it.” Unfortunately, several customers say otherwise.
Owners and lessees of Atlas vehicles insist that although the second-row seats appear to click and lock into place, at the slightest brake, these seats will unlock and propel forward, slamming right into the front seats. There are several accounts of young children being injured as their seats unlocked, folded, and pulled forward. But despite these incidents, Volkswagen has failed to issue any recalls for these seat latches. Instead, they’ve placed recalls on pretty much everything else.
Common Issues with the Volkswagen Atlas
Defective seat latches are not the only feature that consumers are concerned about when it comes to the Volkswagen Atlas. Consumers have filed several complaints about 2018-2021 models regarding a range of issues with various systems of the car including braking, engine, HVAC, as well as the navigation, audio, and phone interface. In addition to defective seat latches, the Atlas is also known for its defective electrical system which often turns off unexpectedly and fails to restart. The 2018 Atlas model alone has caused twenty-six recalls and over 200 complaints to the NHTSA.
Volkswagen recalled about 280 2018 Atlas SUVs in May 2018. A manufacturing defect on these vehicles could cause their fuel tanks to leak, increasing the risk of fire. Dealers inspected and replaced these affected fuel tanks at no cost to consumers. In December of 2017, Volkswagen recalled 58 model year 2017 Atlas SUVs for a similar issue.
In June 2018, Volkswagen implemented a recall of over 50,000 model year 2018 Atlas cars. They say that the owner’s manual did not inform customers about the restrictions for second row seating and child restraint size limitations. Wide child car-seat bases were interfering with outboard seat belt buckles, damaging these belts and causing them to release unexpectedly, increasing the risk of injury. Volkswagen told dealers to inspect and replace affected seat belt buckles. The automaker also added a supplement to the owner’s manual to address these child safety and seat restraints.
On February 21, 2019, Volkswagen released a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) informing dealers to contact them before attempting to repair issues with the second-row seat, after consumers complained about the second-row seats rattling and moving while their vehicles were in use. It appears that the German automaker seems to be aware of a defect involving these seats but chose not to disclose the defect to owners and lessees of Atlas vehicles, as this announcement was only issued to dealers. The company has not released much else aside from this TSB in response to concerns over issues with Atlas seats. Volkswagen, instead, has chosen to issue recalls on various other vehicle components.
The latest Atlas recall occurred on November 16, 2021. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. recalled certain 2021 Atlas and 2020-2021 Atlas Cross Sport vehicles due to defective HVAC systems that can cause water to leak inside the car near the air bag control module, resulting unexpected air bag deployment and increasing the risk of an injury or accident. Dealers were instructed to repair the drain tube and replace the air bag control module, if necessary, at no charge. Atlas owners will be mailed a notification letter regarding the safety risk on January 14, 2022. To date, there have been twenty-six recalls on the Volkswagen Atlas but none of them have specifically addressed the safety concerns many consumers have with the seat latches of these vehicles.
Volkswagen Seat Latch Consumer Complaints
There have been numerous complaints regarding the seat latches found in the Volkswagen Atlas, particularly among Atlas owners with small children. This is what some of them had to say about the faulty seat latches in their SUVs:
“After owning an Atlas for about 2 weeks, I picked up my 2-year-old and put him in his forward-facing car seat in the 2nd row. As I started to slow down as we approached a red light (normal stop – not a hard break by any means), the seat that my 2-year-old was sitting in slammed forward into the back of the front passenger seat. With my child screaming and crying, I quickly put the vehicle into park and turned around to push his seat back into the normal position.”
Volkswagen Atlas Owner
“The 2nd row does not lock easily. Upon sudden brake, the seat came loose and slammed into the back of the front seat. Nobody was sitting there at the time but if my child was in a child seat, she would have been injured very easily.”
Volkswagen Atlas Owner
“The seat initially appears to be locked in the correct place or is at least stable enough for the child to climb into her seat, buckle in, and the trip to begin. At some point thereafter, the seat propels forward. We are unclear whether the latch fails or is not sufficiently engaged. The incidents have been extremely scary, and has resulted in a bloody lip, and abrasions and contusions to our child’s face.”
Volkswagen Atlas Owner
“It has recently come to my attention that our VW Atlas is lacking in any safety feature that prevents the 2nd row from coming unlatched from the rails, when the row lever is released. This does cause a significant safety issue as most children don’t know that they cannot and should not reach or use this lever while the vehicle is in motion, thus causing significant if not life-threatening injury to the children riding in the 2nd row.”
Volkswagen Atlas Owner
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