Op-Ed: Volkswagon Prioritizes Profit Over Safety


A 2021 Volkswagen Atlas in a parking lot. Photo Courtesy of Wikemedia Commons.

When a global company is faced with a choice between life and profit, we expect it to make socially responsible decisions. Unfortunately, Volkswagen happened to make a counterexample.

On February 23, police in Lake Country, Illinois, received a call about an auto theft and child abduction crime.

The disturbing incident occurred in the village of Libertyville when a 34-year-old pregnant mother driving a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas returned home with her two children. When she returned to pick up her second child, she noticed a white BMW pull into the driveway. A masked man rushed out, knocked the woman to the ground, and drove her car away with her 2-year-old son in it.

When faced with an emergency, following the rules is not always the best way to go.

Upon receiving the call, the police then launched an investigation. Soon after, news emerged that with the Volkswagen built-in Car-Net location tracking technology, the police could locate the suspect and get to the child quickly.

However, the police contacted Volkswagen and were met with a splash of cold water. Technical support said that the stolen car had already passed the trial period of the Car-Net service and a $150 service fee was required to enable the feature. Although the police identified themselves and said they were in an emergency, they were refused by the technical support staff because it was not in accordance with the company’s bylaws.

The police call the tech support person again to purchase the Car-Net service. As Christopher Covelli, deputy chief of sheriff’s office, said, “The detective had to work out getting a credit card number and then call the representative back to pay the $150 and at that time the representative provided the GPS location of the vehicle.”

What’s even harder to believe is that 30 minutes after purchasing the service, police still hadn’t received information from Volkswagen about the stolen vehicle. The vehicle was eventually found by witnesses. Fortunately, the child inside the car was not injured. Although the situation did not get too out of hand, Volkswagen’s indifference to the police and the lives of the children in this incident is staggering.

After the incident, Volkswagen issued a statement saying that Car-Net is a third-party service. Both Volkswagen and Car-Net once authorized on allowing the police to open the feature without any impediment during emergency situations. This disturbance was caused by the lack of understanding and proficiency of the operational staff regarding the regulations.

However, this is not an excuse.

The technical support staff still insisted on charging for the service even after the police identified themselves, not to mention that the police had informed them that it was an emergency. The technical staff continued to take on a laissez faire attitude. They didn’t provide enough relevant information in time even after paying the fee. Although there were no casualties, it would have been ironic and dreadful if the child’s life had been put in danger due to the insistence on a fee.

Volkswagen’s service gives us a wake-up call. When faced with an emergency, following the rules is not always the best way to go. At certain situations, blindly abiding the regulations can backfire and endanger lives. I hope that in the future, when we confront similar situations, we will choose life over rules and wealth without thinking twice.