Volkswagen Group of America (VW) will be contacting the owners of certain 2019-2023 VW Atlas and 2020-2023 VW Atlas Cross Sport, mid-size SUVs, because of a problem that could affect the airbag safety in their vehicle. The problem was first brought to the attention of VW's Product Safety Committee after the number of delayed airbag deployment complaints began to increase as vehicles got older. Over time, the problem also began showing up in trim levels not previously seen.
According to the defect report, movement of the wire harness within the front door pillar can damage wires within the harness. The damage could result in “fretting corrosion” which can cause a sporadic interruption in the electrical connection to the components of the front door. In the event of a side crash that requires side airbag deployment, the front side airbag may deploy later than designed. If this happens during certain side crash situations, it may lead to an increased chance of injury to the vehicle occupants.
Drivers should be aware of signs that their vehicle is experiencing airbag problems. If a malfunction is detected in the airbag system, the airbag warning light should illuminate. Other symptoms that could indicate that the wiring in the door is damaged include: inadvertent rolling down windows, inadvertent park brake engagement at low speeds (below approx. 3km/h or 1.8mph) and warnings regarding faulty door sensors. Owners experiencing any of these conditions are advised to have their vehicle inspected and repaired as necessary, without delay.
Volkswagen has not released a fix for this problem and a remedy program is currently under development. Interim owner notification letters informing owners of the safety risk are expected to be mailed in May 2022 and a second notice will be sent once a fix is available. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 97GF and the NHTSA campaign number is 22V-152.