Here's Why Police Needed a Credit Card To Track Down a Stolen VW Atlas With a Child Inside

Knowing what’s going on with your car at any given moment can relieve a lot of potential stress, and that’s thanks to the automakers’ efforts which sought the implementation of connected services on virtually any newer vehicle. However, most of these comprehensive suites come with a monthly or annual fee, and you must pay or they won’t work. That’s what the police found out while they were trying to track down a stolen 2021 VW Atlas with a child in it.
2021 VW Atlas and Car-Net's Android App 12 photos
Photo: VW / Google Play Store / autoevolution edit
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A pregnant woman who returned home from a short trip was trying to get the last one of the two kids inside the house after parking in her driveway when an unidentified male came out of nowhere, battered her, and stole the SUV. During the carjacking, the suspect ran over the victim’s extremities and took off with the child who had remained in the 2021 VW Atlas. Security camera footage showed the alleged thief was joined by another person who drove a slightly damaged BMW 5 Series.

Even though she was seriously injured, the woman called 911 and told the police what happened. Officers sent an ambulance to the victim’s address and started looking for the car and the abducted child. The woman had to be hospitalized because of her injuries. Meanwhile, the police contacted Volkswagen’s Car-Net division to notify them about the incident. They hoped the vehicle had a tracking system and it would enable them to find the kid and the car faster than asking available units and citizens to be on the lookout.

The officers provided Volkswagen Car-Net’s customer representative with the vehicle identification number (VIN) and explained that they needed to locate the SUV as soon as possible because a child was abducted. They received confirmation that the VW Atlas had Car-Net enabled previously. However, the employee said they were not allowed to access the car’s GPS tracking systems because the trial period ended and the vehicle’s owner did not pay to unlock the features. That’s what we anticipated as well when we first reported about this incident.

To continue having access to Car-Net after the trial period ends, customers have to pay $17.99 per month, $199 per year, $378 for two years, or $540 for three years. This gets them access to a plethora of real-time data such as the vehicle locator, which was needed in this case.

Still, the officers did not back down and insisted this was an emergency. But the customer representative said their hands were tied because of the company’s policy. According to what Police told the Lake & McHenry County Scanner, they had to source a credit card and pay VW to bring Car-Net back online. The officers were unable to convince the automaker’s employee to give them access or to at least tell them where the SUV with an abducted child in it was.

It took police another 30 minutes to locate the SUV via VW’s Car-Net suite after the payment was sent. Fortunately, someone saw two vehicles whose drivers appeared to be in an unwarranted rush stop in a parking lot where a child was dropped off. The bystander was inspired enough to call 911 right away and informed law enforcement before Car-Net was reactivated. Police went there immediately and found the abducted two-year-old who was confirmed as unharmed. Later, they also located the VW Atlas in a nearby parking lot.

Volkswagen confirmed through a spokesperson that the company takes these matters very seriously and has safety and security measures in place that would normally allow operators to disregard if the monthly or yearly fee has been paid. The same source explained that emergency assistance was successfully given in previous similar situations.

The automaker said this case represented “a breach of process” and added that the situation would be addressed without explicitly saying what would actually happen.

Finally, the pregnant mother remains in the hospital because she needed surgery, while the police continue looking for the white BMW 5 Series driven by the two suspects involved in this carjacking and child abduction case.
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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, screenshots from the Google Play Store of Volkswagen's Car-Net app (with 4G LTE connectivity) are shown in the photo gallery.

About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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