CA Advocates Call for Crackdown on Sales of Defective Cars

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Cars under a federal safety recall with unrepaired defects are often listed for sale online, with a notice hidden on a secondary page warning that some cars may have unrepaired safety recalls. Photo Credit: Montira / Adobestock

Car dealers regularly advertise cars with unrepaired safety recall defects in California, even though it is illegal for dealers to sell or even offer for sale vehicles that do not comply with one of the hundreds of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

For example, a recent check of revealed a 2020 Lincoln Aviator for sale; a car under recall for intermittent failures of the backup camera which has no permanent fix.

Janette Fennell, president of the nonprofit advocacy group, is calling on the Department of Motor Vehicles, which licenses car dealers, to crack down.

“They can issue fines. They can suspend or revoke licenses. They could refer the cases to law enforcement agencies,” Fennell outlined. “But the DMV has failed to exercise that authority. By allowing those blatant violations, they’ve endangered lives.”

The rule on backup cameras came about after drivers unwittingly backed up and hit children. The DMV said it investigates credible allegations made via its online complaint form. CarMax, in a statement, said it shares “vehicle-specific open recall information in-store and online to ensure our customers know about open recalls prior to purchase” and said the current recall repair system is geared to require manufacturers pay for repairs at their dealerships.

CarMax guarantees its vehicles must pass a 125-point inspection.

Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, urged people to enter the vehicle identification number into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database before they buy, to see if the car is under recall.

“Check the VIN, even if the company said that the vehicle passed an inspection, it may have a lethal safety defect that has been killing people,” Shahan stressed. “And always insist that they fix it before you buy it. But with some of these recalls, there is no fix available yet.”

Consumers can also look up a car’s history using the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.