2018 Volkswagen Atlas recall
2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Volkswagen is recalling 54,537 of its 2018 Atlas SUVs because wide child car-seat bases may interfere with and damage seat-belt buckles in the second row. This could cause the belts to release unexpectedly, the automaker says.

If a car seat with a base wider than 12.6 inches is installed in the second-row center seating position, it may damage the center and adjacent outboard seat-belt buckles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This limitation is not noted in owner’s manuals.

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas recall does not affect models with  captain’s chairs in the second row.

The problem probably has to do with the Atlas rear-seat design, says Emily Thomas, Ph.D., an automotive safety engineer at Consumer Reports.

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“The base of the car seat has to be narrow to fit between the center buckle and the driver-side outboard buckle,” she says. “Otherwise, if it’s overlapping the release button on the outboard buckle, the base of the seat could press down on the button or damage the buckle, allowing it to disengage the seat belt for that outboard passenger.”

Car seats with bases 12.6 inches or narrower can be installed in the Atlas center seat using either the seat belt or lower LATCH anchors as long as the base does not interfere with or overlap nearby buckles, Thomas says. If a car seat uses rigid LATCH connectors or has a wide base, as many convertible car seats or booster seats do, then parents should install the seat in an outboard seat. 

In CR's vehicle and child-seat evaluations, our testers often see car seats that overlap the hardware of adjacent seats because the rear center seats are narrow, Thomas says.

Learn more about the Volkswagen Atlas in our complete road test

The Details

Vehicles recalled: 2018 VW Atlas SUVs equipped with second-row bench seats built between Nov. 17, 2016 and June 5, 2018.

The problem: The center and adjacent outboard seat-belt buckles on the second row can become damaged if a child-seat base is installed that is wider than 12.6 inches. A damaged seat-belt buckle can release unexpectedly, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

The fix: NHTSA says that VW dealers will inspect the center and left outboard seat-belt buckles and replace them if necessary, free of charge. The automaker will also provide an owner's manual supplement that addresses child safety and child restraints.

How to contact the manufacturer: VW will reach out to owners of affected vehicles starting Aug. 3, 2018. Owners may call 800-893-5298.

NHTSA campaign number: 18V380000. Volkswagen's own number for this recall is 69X1.

Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: Plug in the 17-digit vehicle identification number at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. It will tell you whether your vehicle has any open recalls that need to be addressed.

CR members can stay up to date on their car recalls using our Car Recall Tracker.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas recall
2018 Volkswagen Atlas