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At AutoNation, 1 in 9 used cars have unrepaired safety recalls, consumer groups say

Cars Used in LotAutoNation, America’s largest auto retailer, is selling used vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls including explosive Takata airbags, faulty GM ignition switches, and defects with no fix available. “Unsafe Used Cars for Sale,” a report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, found that one in nine cars for sale at AutoNation dealerships across the country have unrepaired defects that make them dangerous to drivers, passengers, and others on the roadways.

“By selling recalled cars with safety defects, AutoNation puts customers in danger before they even reach home,” said Adam Garber, consumer watchdog for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “The only way that AutoNation can ensure a ‘worry-free’ purchase is to repair every recalled vehicle before selling it.”

The survey found numerous unsafe cars among more than 2,400 vehicles analyzed at 28 dealerships in 12 states. The recalled vehicles had defects that could cause vehicles to stall in traffic, seat belts to fail, Takata air bags to propel metal fragments at passengers, cars to catch on fire, or steering to malfunction.

Other findings include:

  • Nearly one in five used vehicles at the Chrysler Jeep West dealership in Colorado had unrepaired recalls. At four other dealerships, more than one in six used vehicles contained an unrepaired safety recall.
  • Dealers charge extra for “certified” pre-owned vehicles with extra rigorous inspections, but researchers found 14 of those vehicles still had unfixed recall hazards.
  • Forty-seven vehicles for sale were under recalls for which automakers indicated that no fix was available at the time of the analysis.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has a new guide to help consumers determine if the used car they’re looking at has unrepaired recalls. If it has one, the consumer organization recommends not purchasing the vehicle. 

“Whenever you buy a car from a duly licensed car dealership, whether it’s new or used, you shouldn’t have to worry that they’re deliberately selling you a car they know has a killer safety recall defect they failed to get repaired for free,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

In 2015, AutoNation’s then-CEO pledged not to sell any used car with an unresolved safety recall, stating, "These are not that the wrong tire-pressure sticker is on the car or some other little minor item...These are significant safety recalls, and we feel the time has passed that it's appropriate to take a vehicle in trade with a significant safety recall and turn around the next day and sell it to consumers." That pledge lasted less than a year and a half, Shahan said. In 2016, the company announced since the Trump administration wouldn’t address this issue, AutoNation would start selling unsafe recalled used vehicles to consumers. 

By selling used vehicles with unfixed recalls, AutoNation and other dealerships may be violating state laws, she said.

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