VW to offer free car safety service after toddler carjacking debacle

Volkswagen is trying to rectify a botched carjacking scenario involving a toddler after the automaker's Car-Net safety service refused to track the stolen car because of a payment issue.

The automaker, apologizing for the fiasco, said it is now making its Car-Net safety feature, once a paid subscription plan, a free service on all 2020-2023 Volkswagen models equipped with the feature for the next five years.

“Volkswagen must and will do better for everyone that trusts our brand and for the law enforcement officials tasked with protecting us,” said Volkswagen spokesperson Rachael Zaluzec. "Today, we are setting a new standard for customer peace of mind.”

The February 23 carjacking incident took place in Libertyville, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago.

Two carjackers attacked a pregnant mother in her own driveway, ran her over, and then drove away with her two-year old son still strapped in the backseat of the car.

The vehicle, a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, was equipped with its Car-Net Safe & Secure feature, which besides crash notification and other emergency assistance services includes a Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance feature.

When police called the service to help locate the stolen vehicle, they were at first refused assistance because of a lapse in the subscription payment.

"Unfortunately, there was a delay, as Volkswagen Car-Net would not track the vehicle with the abducted child until they received payment to reactivate the tracking device in the stolen Volkswagen," the sheriff's office said at the time of the incident.

Luckily, the carjackers dropped the boy off unharmed in a nearby town soon after; the mother was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, and the stolen car eventually found abandoned by the thieves.

Volkswagen called the incident a “serious breach” of protocol.

“The family was thankfully reunited, but the crime and the process failure are heartbreaking for me,” Zaluzec said.

“As a mom and an aunt, I can imagine how painful this incident must have been. Words can’t adequately express how truly sorry I am for what the family endured,” said Zaluzec.

“In addition to a full investigation of what went wrong and actions taken to address the failure, we want to make it right for the future,” she added.

For gas-powered vehicles equipped with Car-Net hardware, the free service includes Automatic Crash Notifications, Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, and Anti-Theft Alerts; ID.4 EV models include Automatic Crash Notifications and Emergency Assistance, according to the automaker.

Volkswagen said its five years of complimentary service will begin on June 1.

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