An Illinois family sued Volkswagen claiming Car-Net, its emergency telematics service, refused to help track their vehicle after a carjacking despite the Atlas SUV having their 2-year-old son onboard. A customer service rep allegedly said the family would first have to pay $150 for a new subscription to the service.
Volkswagen is facing a lawsuit filed by Taylor Shepherd and her family in the wake of a carjacking earlier this year. The new suit claims that Volkswagen’s Car-Net service, which can track a stolen vehicle using its onboard GPS system, refused to help because the family had not maintained an active subscription.
The crisis was made worse by the fact that Shepherd, then four months pregnant, had her 2-year-old son buckled into a safety seat in the back of the Volkswagen Atlas when it was carjacked.
The child was eventually dropped off on the side of the road by the thieves and safely rescued, but Shepherd said she and her family continue to suffer nightmares and other trauma as a result of the incident.
Shepherd had just parked in the driveway of her home in the North Chicago suburbs last February and was getting ready to take Isaiah out of his child seat. Suddenly, a BMW pulled into her driveway, a man in a green mask jumping out and knocking her to the ground. She was then run over by her own Atlas SUV as the carjacker took off, Isaiah still in the back seat.
Shepherd dialed 911, desperate for help. In turn, the police contacted VW’s Car-Net service. Like other telematics operations, Car-Net can track the location of a stolen vehicle using its onboard GPS system and an onboard cellular connection.
But a customer service representative refused to help – even after being informed there was a child onboard – because Shepherd had let the subscription lapse. Authorities were told they’d first have to pay $150 to reactivate the service.
A detective was getting ready to pay Car-Net when Shepherd’s father arrived and handled the renewal, according to the Washington Post.
By then, however, the carjacker had tossed the child out of the vehicle in Waukegan, about 9 miles from Shepherd’s home in Libertyville, Illinois. A bystander went to assist the child, keeping him out of traffic and then reporting what happened to police.
Shepherd had suffered numerous injuries in the scuffle with the carjackers and even had tire tracks on her belly. Among other things, her pelvis was broken but, somehow, her unborn child survived and was born in June.
After being told Isaiah had been rescued, “I just thought whatever comes next,” Shepherd told the Post, “I can get through it because I’m not going to a funeral for my child.”
VW apologizes, makes changes
In a video posted after the company was advised of the incident, Rachael Zaluzec, Volkswagen’s senior vice president of customer experience and brand marketing, said there was a “breach in the Car-Net call center process.”
“Words can’t adequately express how truly sorry I am for what the family endured,” she added.
The carmaker has since announced that it will include five years of free coverage for all owners whose vehicles come with Car-Net.
“Volkswagen must and will do better for everyone that trusts our brand and for the law enforcement officials tasked with protecting us,” Zaluzec said in a news release announcing the changes to the Car-Net service. “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.”
A company source told Headlight.News VW had tried to directly contact Shepherd after the carjacking. For her part, however, she claims the company never reached out. And that, she told the Post, is why the family has since filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against both Car-Net and Volkswagen.
She said her children are still suffering emotional trauma from the incident and she also faces ongoing physical therapy as a result of her injuries. A GoFundMe campaign has so far raised more than $83,000 to assist the family.
The stolen vehicle was discovered later that day, apparently abandoned by the carjackers. There’ve no arrests reported in the case.