2021 Volkswagen Atlas Airbag Problems & Recall

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

Lemberg Law is investigating complaints regarding problems with the recall of 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SUVs because of faulty airbags. Volkswagen estimates that 100% of these vehicles potentially have the defect. But vehicle owners are reporting that months after the recall notification, the parts needed for the repair are still not available.

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Is There an Airbag Recall for the VW Atlas?

Yes, there is a serious problem with the recall of Volkswagen and Volkswagen Cross Sport SUVs. This is due to the parts needed for repairs not being available.

It isn’t clear how many 2021 Atlas SUVs there are, but information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website (Campaign No. 22V152000) states that nine VW Atlas SUVs models from 2019-2023 and 2020-2023 Atlas Cross Sport models are affected. According to the safety recall report, these total 222,892 vehicles, all of which could potentially be affected.

The recall was shared on the NHTSA website on March 28, 2022. It states, in summary, that the “door wiring harness electrical contacts may corrode, disrupting the electrical connection and delaying the deployment of the driver or passenger front side air bag during a side impact crash.”

It also states that “dealers will secure and, as necessary, replace any the front door wiring harnesses showing a fault code, free of charge.”

Owners notification letters were mailed on June 20, 2022. But since then, there has been an ongoing stream of complaints that the parts needed for the repair aren’t available.

In May 2022, Volkswagen stated that the parts would probably be available in June 2022.

How Long Has VW Known About the Airbag Problem?

Volkswagen has known that there is an airbag issue for more than six years. There is even a manufacturer communication on file with the NHTSA that refers to airbag issues with Volkswagen vehicles. It is one of 21 documents included in the 2021 VW Atlas airbag recall notification.

The communication is in the form of a compliance notification letter from Volkswagen Group of America (VWGoA) to dealerships. It highlights a notification of defect from the airbag manufacturer, Takata. The defect, it states, is caused by the use of “SDI and PSDI-5 inflators.” This is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part. It affects airbags on the driver’s side.

But VWGoA states in the letter: “There is no action to take at this time. If customers call you, please direct them to Customer Care. We will provide more information as it becomes available.”

Obviously this notification has been updated over the years because it now includes a total of 395 affected Volkswagen products. Model years range from as early as 1965, for the VW Beetle, to 2023 models.

Affected VW Atlas models range from 2018-2023. The technical service bulletin (TSB) that refers to the Atlas was released on October 29, 2020. It warns dealers not to diagnose or replace components due to specified faults before they perform the update function that is explained in the TSB.

And it’s not just VW that is affected. As the NHTSA website states, tens of millions of vehicles with Takata airbags have been recalled.

The problem for Volkswagen Atlas owners is that even though it is a longstanding, well-known problem, in 2022, many owners are finding they cannot get their vehicles fixed.

Why is there an Airbag Recall for the VW Atlas?

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas has been recalled because of faulty airbags. To quote the NHTSA, about 67 million Takata airbags have been recalled “because these air bags can explode when deployed, causing serious injury or even death.”

It is transparently clear that the airbags in the VW Atlas have been failing for some time. For example, in December 2021 an Atlas Cross Sport owner from Florida complained that no airbags were deployed when the car was in a front-end collision. One person was injured.

The owner of a Cross Sport from Arizona also crashed and the airbags failed. Again, one person was injured. The dealership blamed the fuel sensor for the accident, but there was no mention of an airbag failure. The dealer couldn’t replace the fuel sensor because there wasn’t a part available.

In July, Volkswagen told Atlas owners they can continue to drive their vehicles if they are experiencing issues that may be caused by the “recall condition.” They will know there is a problem if the airbag warning light comes on because a malfunction is detected. Other symptoms include the sporadic interruption of electric connection. These can be:

  • Windows rolling down inadvertently
  • Unintentional park brake engagement at low speeds (below 1.8 mph)
  • Warnings regarding faulty door sensors

They advise customers who experience any of these conditions to have their vehicle diagnosed and repaired “without delay.”

Lots of owners have experienced these symptoms and tried, unsuccessfully, to get their vehicles fixed.

Other VW Atlas Airbag Related Complaints

The very first airbag-related complaint on the 2021 Atlas complaints page describes how the dash light indicates a problem/issue with the driver’s side airbag. This was in October 2020 and the vehicle was only three weeks old.

The first time it happened was when the driver “started the car initially. The light seems to stay on while the car is in motion.”

There is a complaint from June 2022 that mentions the other issues:

“My vehicle experiences inadvertent windows rolling down, inadvertent parking brake engagement at low speeds, and a warning regarding a faulty door sensor on multiple occasions.”

In May 2022, a Colorado owner complained that his “VW Atlas 2021 is having issues with the driver side harness which there is an active recall without repair for. Car started to show error messages related to (the) parking brake, air bag functionality, windows roll up and down, (the) parking brake engaged while driving in early April. Multiple dealers contacted and no loaner vehicle or repairs identified or offered. Car feels completely unsafe to drive due to random braking and error messages.”

There have also been numerous issues with VW Atlas airbags randomly deploying and causing injuries.

A New York owner whose airbag light illuminated randomly was told there was a safety issue. They said, “it is a safety issue due to a faulty sensor in the passenger side door which can both cause the airbag not to deploy (or to randomly deploy) and can also cause the parking brake to automatically engage while the car is in motion.”

“While the VW dealership was totally not transparent about this, the rental agency told me that there were more than 15 customers before me with the same issue in the same car.”

What are Volkswagen Atlas Owners Experiencing with the Airbag Recall?

Even though the July 2022 document mentioned above states repairs for the recall had begun, in August 2022 owners are still complaining that the part for the recall repair isn’t available. Some claim that their vehicle is not on the recall list, even though VW estimates that 100% of vehicles in the given model year range are potentially affected.

Many owners who have contacted dealerships to do the repairs have done so after the airbag warning light illuminated. Even though VWGoA says it’s important to have vehicles repaired “without delay,” they are told the part is not yet available.

Some complaints state quote a “parts distribution disconnect.” Others say that the VIN tool confirms that the necessary parts are not available. Generally, complaints say that “the manufacturer had exceeded a reasonable amount of time for the recall repair.”

In a complaint dated August 1, 2022, an Atlas Cross Sport owner from Florida reports having visited the dealer on July 12, 2022. The dealer inspected the SUV and confirmed that it was affected by the recall. But said “they don’t have the spare part to fix the problem but in one or two weeks they should have it, once they get it they will call me. Since then, I have not received any call from the dealer. The only time that they answered me they said that they do not know when the part will arrive.”

On the other hand, an owner from California who complained to the NHTSA on March 19, 2022, was told the vehicle was “unsafe to drive.” This owner was told there was a five-month back order.

What to Do If Volkswagen Cannot Honor the 2021 VW Atlas Airbag Recall?

Do you own a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas that is affected by the nation-wide shortage of parts available to fix faulty Takata airbags? If so, contact Lemberg Law so that we can assess your case.

You can fill out our contact form or call us for a free case evaluation. If you claim according to lemon law the law requires Volkswagen to pay the legal fees for your claim.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
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