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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Is Your Used Car Dealership Telling You Everything You Need To Know?

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You are looking for a reliable and safe used car and visit a dealership or used car lot. You think you are hearing everything you need to know to make the right buying decision. Most of all, you expect the vehicle to be free from defects and that any safety recalls have been fixed, right? Don’t be so sure.

There is not federal law requiring used car dealers to inform consumers about unrepaired safety recalls on the vehicles they are selling, even defects that have proven deadly. To prove this point “CBS This Morning” went undercover in New Jersey to see what information salespeople would say about used cars with unrepaired safety recalls.

At Premier Auto Group of New Jersey When asked about airbag recalls on the BMW X5, a salesperson said “I don’t think the X5 will have this problem.”

At Penske Acura dealership A 2012 Acura TL with the airbag defect was not repaired, but a salesperson said: “We’re a corporate complex so we won’t sell anything that gives us a bad reputation.”

At Auto Lenders A salesperson admitted the dealership sells cars with the airbag defect, but told the undercover shopper not to worry because “There’s only two or three people killed by it but they don’t even know what’s causing it.” Truth – at least 10 people have died and over 100 injured due to those airbags and regulators did find the cause.

Going back to the same salespeople, this time not undercover, this is what “CBS This Morning” was told about the recalls:

At Auto Lenders “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk on camera,” said the salesperson. The “customer” was then referred to corporate who said that they “share the vehicle’s Carfax report – which includes accident and title history, odometer readings and recall information – with all buyers.”

At Penske Acura The same salesperson said she was not aware of the open airbag recall. The dealership later said that it was a mistake and the car was pulled from their lot.

At Premier Auto Group The manager said he would have checked for any recalls before the vehicle was purchased, but it would not stop him from selling it. When the salesperson was asked if he felt the vehicle was safe despite the airbag recall his response was – “They’re not safe, but I mean, it’s BMW, you have to go to BMW and ask them how they let these cars stay on the road.”

These dealers are not an exception. Dealerships around the country are selling cars with an array of safety defects, not just those vehicles under the airbag recall. Why?

Although under federal law, it is illegal for car dealers to sell new cars recalled because of safety defects to consumers; no such law exists to protect used car buyers. Dealers are not even required by law to disclose to customers that a vehicle is the subject of a recall. Measures to change this have continuously stalled. One sticking point has been whether franchised dealers should be obligated to have recall repairs done on used cars from a brand they don’t sell — such as a used Ford vehicle taken in by a Chevrolet dealer as a trade-in — prior to sale. Used car dealers also contend that not all recalls require immediate attention and new laws would cost companies and consumers unnecessary time and expense. These are flimsy excuses! While auto manufacturers should improve safety so cars are free of defects when they roll off the assembly line, it is painfully obvious that used car dealers, like auto manufacturers, are far more interested in maximizing profits than doing the right thing for the safety of their customers.

Consumers shouldn’t have to wait for new legislation, a court battle, or a tragedy, to know the car they bought is safe. We should be able to feel confident that a vehicle with a potentially dangerous defect is not on car lots, or our roadways, without the necessary repair completed. Until automakers and dealers step up and do the right thing, do your own research before purchasing a used car. Go to SaferCar.gov and search by make, year, and model to find relevant recalls or search by vehicle identification number (VIN) to check for specific repairs or complaints. CarFax has a similar recall search page on their website. In the end, if you are not comfortable that the recall repairs have been made, play it safe and do not buy the car.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.