Volkswagen’s car tracking firm demanded $150 to renew expired subscription to help police locate stolen car with abducted boy inside

A Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV pictured during the 2022 New York International Auto Show.
Volkswagen demanded police officers pay $150 to reactivate a car’s GPS subscription before helping to locate an abducted child, officials say.
Jeenah Moon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Volkswagen refused to cooperate with law enforcement in a case of child abduction last week because the vehicle at the center of the crime had an expired GPS subscription.

The company demanded officers pay $150 to renew the service before assisting police.  

In a statement published via its verified Facebook account on Friday, the Lake County, Ill., sheriff’s office said a vehicle had been hijacked and stolen a day earlier with a 2-year-old child still inside.

The woman who owned the car pulled onto her driveway, took one of her children inside, and then came back to her Volkswagen for her 2-year-old son. As she returned to her vehicle, a BMW pulled up behind her, and a man got out and forced his way into the car with her and the child. He physically attacked the woman, knocking her to the ground, before stealing her car with the toddler inside.

Both cars fled the scene, and one of them ran over the woman, inflicting serious injuries. She was able to call 911, but remains in the hospital in serious condition.

“Knowing a child was inside the vehicle, sheriff’s detectives immediately responded to the scene and the general area to search for the Volkswagen,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement.

Request to Volkswagen

During their search, detectives called Volkswagen to request help tracking the stolen car via Car-Net—a suite of mobile connected services that allows drivers to do things like lock their car remotely or map their vehicle’s location and surroundings.

“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,” officials said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Saturday that Volkswagen told officers the stolen vehicle’s Car-Net trial had ended, and said a $150 fee to restart the service would need to be paid before the carmaker would locate the SUV.  

A detective reportedly explained the gravity of the situation to Volkswagen’s representative, to no avail. In the 30 minutes it took to make the credit card payment, authorities had already tracked down the vehicle and the missing child.

“A person working at a business in the 2200 block of Lakeside Drive, Waukegan, called 911 to report they just saw two vehicles enter the parking lot, and the driver of one of the cars abandoned a small child,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement on Friday. “The drivers of both vehicles then fled. The 911 caller at the business rescued the child from the parking lot, before the child wandered onto the busy roadway.”

A spokesperson for Volkswagen admitted in a statement that a “serious breach” of its standards had been committed, but noted that it had been a third party that responded to the police request.

“Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net support services involving emergency requests from law enforcement,” the spokesperson said. “They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents. Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process. We are addressing the situation with the parties involved.”

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