Volkswagen slammed for refusing to hand over GPS data to track down stolen car – with baby inside

German car manufacturer Volkswagen is taking heat after it reportedly refused to help Illinois police use its car tracking service to find a missing child — unless they paid up first.

On 23 February, a 34-year-old mother had just returned to her home in Libertyville, just north of Chicago, and began to unload her children from her 2021 Volkswagen Atlas. She took one child from the car into her home, and upon returning for the second found that a white BMW had pulled into her driveway.

A man reportedly stepped out of the car's passenger seat, struck her, and knocked her to the ground. The man then drove off in her car, with her toddler still inside. The carjacker and the BMW driver drove off. One of them reportedly ran over the mother, leaving her with "serious injuries to her extremities," according to the sheriff's office. She was also six months pregnant at the time of the attack, according to NBC Chicago.

She remains in serious but stable condition at an area hospital.

Police searching for the child contacted Volkswagen Car-Net, which provides VW owners with vehicle control and location services from a mobile app, and asked the company to use its tracking tools to find the missing child.

However, some features — like location services — apparently are premium features. Volkswagen reportedly told law enforcement that the company "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 in the Facebook post.

Commenters on the post were furious with the car company.

“Volkswagen you need to do better!! This is outrageous.. as a VW owner, I will NEVER buy another, asking for payment when the police are trying to locate a child that was kidnapped!,” one user wrote.

Another person wrote that “Volkswagen should be absolutely f****** ashamed of themselves. Profits before lives. Oh wait, that’s the American way,” and tagged the company’s Facebook profile in the post.

Volkswagen provided a statement to NBC News explaining its decision to withhold its assistance, noting that the company "takes the safety and security of its customers very seriously."

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

The details of the "breach of process" were not provided in the statement.

The Independent has reached out for comment.

Police eventually found the child 10 miles away in Waukegan. A 911 caller witnessed the drivers of the stolen car and the BMW leave a child in a parking lot of a local business before speeding off. Police recovered the child at the lot.

The stolen Volkswagen was eventually recovered from a parking lot Waukegan. Police are still searching for the BMW.