(CNN) Volkswagen is recalling 143,000 of its Atlas large SUVs in the US because a faulty sensor on the front passenger side can turn off the airbag system under certain conditions. Until the problem can be corrected, VW advises owners to avoid letting people ride in that seat.
The problem is “sporadic”, according to documents VW filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationwho oversees vehicle recalls.
Most modern passenger vehicles have weight sensors in the front seat to detect if someone small, such as a child, is riding in that seat. Airbags, which inflate strongly in a crash, can injure small children. If these sensors detect that there is a small person sitting there, the airbag is deactivated.
But faulty sensors in some Atlas SUVs can cause the so-called “passenger and occupant sensing system” to indicate a problem with the system and disable the airbag. This could leave front seat passengers without airbag protection in a crash.
While it’s still unclear what’s causing the problem, VW researchers were able to determine what was going on in Atlases built during two specific time periods. The vehicles being recalled are all 2018 through 2021 model year Atlas models and 2020 model year Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.
Volkswagen is not aware of any injuries that may have resulted from the problem, VW spokesman Mark Gillies said.
If this problem occurs, a warning light will come on inside the vehicle. VW hasn’t yet determined how to fix the problem, but once it’s resolved, repairs will be made free of charge, according to documents VW filed with NHTSA. Owners of recalled Atlas SUVs will be notified by mail.
Concerned owners can also call NHTSA’s Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.
The Atlas, a seven-seat SUV designed specifically for the US market, is built at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee factory.