Study: Largest Car Retailer is Selling Unfixed Recalled Vehicles, and They Are Not Alone

Car With Airbag Deployed

A brand new report out this week from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) has shined the light on one of the largest auto retailers in the country, accusing them of selling many used vehicles that are under safety recalls and have not been repaired. According to US PIRG, an analysis of more than  2,400 used vehicles at 28 AutoNation dealerships nationwide revealed that as many as one out of every nine vehicles on their lots had unrepaired safety recall issues, including several issues that could lead to deaths and injuries.

To make matters worse, in 2015, AutoNation announced that it would no longer sell used cars with open safety recalls. According to US PIRG, however, they seem to have reversed course on that issue about a year later. They  are looking into how many unrepaired vehicles have actually been sold to consumers.

Many Dealers Selling Defective Vehicles

US PIRG also notes that AutoNation is not alone with this problem; thousands of dealerships have the same problem. In one case, a car dealer in Florida said they have a lot full of cars that he refuses to sell because they all have unreplaced Takata airbags. That dealer said he has lost nearly $600,000 on those cars over the past three years, in part because he can’t get the parts to fix them.

For its part, AutoNation issued a statement saying it has not had the opportunity to see the U.S. PIRG report, but it also disputed the accuracy of the report. The company said their policy is to repair the recalled vehicles for which it has the parts or to hold the cars if so instructed by the manufacturer. The statement also said, for the few cars it sells with unrepaired recalls, they sell them “with full disclosure.”

“Disclosing Defects is Not Enough

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has sponsored a recent bill that would outlaw the sale of used cars with unrepaired defects, said even “full” disclosure is inadequate. No dealer should be allowed to knowingly sell a defective vehicle. Blumenthal said, “Disclosure is really no substitute for repair. The dealers who say disclosure is a substitute for repairs ignore the plain fact that unsafe vehicles are a menace, not only to passengers and drivers, but to other motorists.”

In their report, US PIRG said, “AutoNation advertises that these processes are worry-free, and they’re not worry-free if I have a car with a Takata airbag in it – that’s something I’m probably pretty worried about.” The report also noted that too many other dealers also sell cars with unrepaired safety recalls, including some with potentially explosive Takata airbags and General Motors vehicles that are still equipped with ignition switches linked to a number of injuries and fatalities. Some vehicles have been sold with steering defects and many others defective seat belts. US PIRG thinks the selling of defective vehicles is unfortunate, if for no other reason than it puts everyone on the roads with the defective vehicle at risk, even before the car buyer gets home.

Why You Might Worry About Buying a Defective Vehicle

All vehicle safety recalls should be taken seriously, and all vehicles subject to recall should be repaired before being sold sale to consumers for use on the roads that all of us share. Some victims have been killed within hours of when a dealer handed them the key to a defective car. While AutoNation seems to have the most defective vehicles on their lots, it’s only because they’re the biggest chain. Some dealerships had a significantly more used vehicles under recall than others. For a number of car lots in Colorado, for example, the ratio of unrepaired recalled vehicles was one-in-five or one-in-six.

The US PIRG report contains a number of recommendations for dealers, as well as several tips for consumers, so they can avoid buying a recalled vehicle and increase their safety and the safety of others who use the same roads. You can read and/or download the entire report by going here.

Awards & Accolades