Can a Used Car Dealer Sell a Car with an Unfixed Recall?
Used cars are often bought and sold without regard for any manufacturer recalls—and it’s perfectly legal to do so. Unfortunately, some repairs are vital. Delia Robles, a 50-year-old woman in Riverside, California, was driving her 2001 Honda Civic when she was killed by her airbag exploding, sending metal parts flying. Her vehicle was among the many recalled due to a defective Takata airbag, which is believed to have caused approximately 15 deaths to date. She was yet another used vehicle buyer who unknowingly purchased a dangerous vehicle.
New car dealers must disclose and repair vehicles under recall, but used car sellers are not required to disclose or repair recalls for sales transactions.
Robles is the latest of a growing list of drivers who have had negative outcomes with used vehicles needing recall repairs. Jose Contreras, Robles’s son, was devastated by the loss of his mother, whom he had purchased the Honda for from an acquaintance. According to Honda, over 20 notifications had been sent out regarding the Civic since the 2008 recall. Robles’s vehicle had been sold to three different owners since the 2008 recall. Her death could have been easily avoided if a previous owner had taken the car to a Honda dealership for the free repair.
When Vehicles Are Sold Privately, They’re Hard to Track
Automakers are required to attempt to reach current owners regarding recalls, but this isn’t always possible. Bryan Thomas of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) explained that it is often difficult for automakers to get in contact with current vehicle owners once the car is sold on the used car market, or an owner changes addresses. (This has posed a major concern in the Takata recall with over 300,000 vehicles involved.) This is commonly referred to as the “used car loophole.”
In the wake of injuries and deaths, there have been efforts to address the problem, but no solution has been implemented. Federal laws already require both new vehicle dealers and rental car agencies to have the proper repairs made before selling or leasing vehicles. There are services available, such as Carfax, that allow a used vehicle buyer to check and see the recall history of a car, but many buyers do not check.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has been in favor of implementing legislation to close the loophole, citing the potential danger that consumers face. But Blumenthal was unsuccessful in his efforts, as many, including car dealers, opposed the legislation.
What Car Dealers Have to Say
Some people in the automotive industry say that such as change would create significant problems with vehicle trade-in values. Dealers who acquire used vehicles with a safety recall would have to retain these vehicles as they await manufacturer parts and repair. Delays for replacement parts have traditionally averaged 60 days; according to J.D. Power, some delays have exceeded 90 days. One particular part supposedly took 704 days to arrive for a needed repair.
Jonathan Banks, Vice President of Vehicle Analysis for J.D. Power, explained that if dealers were forced to make recall repairs, they would first determine if the parts for repair were readily available. When dealers know that they must await the necessary parts for the repair, they will likely offer lower amounts for trade-ins. The dealer will then have greater difficulty selling new cars if the trade-in value of the customer’s current vehicle is less than market value. Banks estimates that the per-car loss could equate to approximately $1,200. Used car sellers may also have to absorb the cost of transporting the car to the appropriate dealer to have the repair completed.
On CBS This Morning, “undercover shoppers” went out to used car dealers to get their response to concerns about used vehicles in need of a recall-based repair. The shoppers went to several dealerships and received the following responses:
- At Premier Auto in New Jersey, a salesman said regarding the BMW X5 with recall: “I don’t think the X5 will have that problem.”
- At Penske Acura dealership, a salesman said that their corporate office “won’t sell anything that gives us a bad reputation.”
- At Auto Lenders, a salesman acknowledged that they sell used vehicles with airbag defects, but said not to worry because “only two or three people were killed by it and they don’t know the cause.”
There you have it. Car sellers, whether multi-million dollar dealerships or the guy two blocks down, will never take your safety as seriously as you do. If you purchased a used vehicle and want to see if it has been recalled, you can look up the VIN here, or visit the NHTSA’s website.
If you have been in a car accident and need legal help, contact the team at Car Accident Help. We offer a free accident analysis, and if you have any questions, you can call for a free consultation with an Oklahoma car accident attorney. Dial (405) 285-4357 today.
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