Volkswagen Atlas Recalled Because Some Child Seats Don't Fit
Child seats with wide bases may damage seat belt buckles, causing them to fail.
Volkswagen has announced a recall of 54,537 Atlas models from 2018 due to child car seats not fitting properly into the center of the middle row, according to Consumer Reports.
The recall only affects Atlas models with a middle bench seat, not captains' chairs.
"The base of the car seat has to be narrow to fit between the center buckle and the driver-side outboard buckle," says Emily Thomas, an automotive safety engineer at Consumer Reports. "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 seatbelt for that outboard passenger."
Although Volkswagen is recalling the Atlas for this issue, it is far from the only car to suffer from it. In my experience as a former NHTSA-certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, I encountered this issue regularly in many different cars when trying to install a child seat in the center. The base would have to be quite narrow to fit within a 12.6-inch space. Because of this fitment issue, I often had to install seats in one of the outboard locations rather than the center of the back seat simply because they didn't fit between the seat belt buckles. Consumer Reports' Thomas agrees—the center of the back seat is the safest place to protect the child from intrusion during a side impact, but that location isn't so safe if the seat doesn't fit properly.
To address the issue, Volkswagen will inspect the inboard seat belt buckles on affected vehicles and, if damaged, replace them free of charge. Volkswagen will also provide a supplement to the Atlas owner's manual about this fitment issue to prevent it from happening in the future. The recall will begin on August 3. In the meantime, you can inspect the buckles yourself, and if there is any question about them being damaged you can move your child seat to an outboard position.