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Volkswagen recalls 143,000 Atlas SUVs due to problems with the front passenger airbag

Volkswagen has recalled 143,000 of its Atlas SUVs in the U.S. because of faulty wiring in a weight sensor on the front passenger side, which can switch off the airbag when there's someone sitting there. Owners shouldn't let people ride in that seat until the problem can be corrected, the company advised.

Field data shows the problem is "highly sporadic and the warning light is illuminating immediately upon failure," the company said in documents filed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Airbags, which inflate forcefully when a crash causes them to deploy, can injure children and small adults. The front passenger seat of most cars has a weight sensor to detect if someone small is sitting there and, if so, switch off the airbag.

The issue in the recalled Atlas SUVs has caused the passenger occupant detection system to sense a malfunction and turn off the airbag when it shouldn't, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Volkswagen is not aware of any injuries related to this problem, spokesperson Mark Gillies said.

The recall applies to certain model year 2018-2021 Volkswagen Atlas and model year 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport vehicles. Owners whose vehicles are affected will be notified via mail next month. Volkswagen is still working to figure out a repair for the problem, and owners will get another letter when one is available, according to documents filed with NHTSA.

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Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.