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About 1 in 4 CarMax vehicles has unrepaired recall defect, safety advocates say
More than a quarter of used vehicles for sale at CarMax outlets in three states were found to have unrepaired recall defects, a coalition of safety advocates said Thursday.
A survey of 1,699 used vehicles for sale at eight CarMax Inc. dealerships in Connecticut, Massachusetts and California found 27 percent had at least one open recall, according to a report the group released. That's double the percentage of open recalls found at five of the dealerships in a similar survey conducted in 2015, the group said.
Of the 461 vehicles with at least one unrepaired recall defect, 41 had no repair available.
The unrepaired defects included Takata airbags and General Motors ignition switches, each of which has been linked to multiple deaths and injuries, said Deirdre Cummings, consumer program director for MASSPIRG Education Fund.
"No one should have to gamble with their safety," she said in a conference call with reporters.
Jason Levine, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, which issued a related report, said many new and used auto retailers also sell used vehicles with unrepaired recall defects, but the group focused on CarMax because it is the leading used-car retailing group in the U.S. (it sold 619,936 used vehicles in 2016) and because CarMax labels its vehicles "CarMax Quality Certified."
"Selling an unrepaired recalled vehicle as 'safe' is deceptive on its face," Levine said. "There's no other product where you can slap a disclosure on it and sell it as safe -- not food, not cribs, not drugs."
CarMax said it fully discloses any open recalls to customers before purchase, the company told Automotive News along with a release detailing its disclosure process.
"CarMax has led the industry in recall transparency and shares vehicle-specific recall information in-store and online. Every vehicle on carmax.com and on CarMax's mobile apps includes a link to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall lookup website, with the VIN pre-populated, allowing customers to obtain open recall information on any CarMax used vehicle," the company said. "Before any customer purchases a used vehicle, a CarMax associate and the customer review the recall information available on the NHTSA website. After this initial review, customers sign a form acknowledging receipt of the NHTSA recall information prior to signing sales documents."
"We are dedicated to making sure our customers know about open recalls prior to purchase," said CarMax COO Cliff Wood in a statement emailed to Automotive News. "Nothing is more important than being transparent and honest with our customers."
The safety advocates' report, titled "Used Car Roulette," is the result of a study conducted this year at eight CarMax outlets, five of which were also surveyed in 2015. It was released Thursday by the CARS Foundation, Massachusetts Public Information Research Group and the Center for Auto Safety.
The safety advocates have had a running dispute with NHTSA and other federal authorities about allowing retailers to sell vehicles with safety recalls that have not been repaired.
Selling used cars with unrepaired safety defects under recall is not prohibited under federal law, but has come under scrutiny repeatedly by both the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General's Office. It's illegal to sell new cars with safety recalls that have not been remedied.
Yet only franchised new-car dealers can complete recall repairs. Independent dealerships such as CarMax cannot.
Rosemary Shahan, president of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, acknowledged that many recalled vehicles do not yet have approved fixes or replacement parts. But she added that the problem is more urgent than ever.
"There are more recalled vehicles out there than before," she said. "We are demanding that state law enforcement officials crack down on CarMax and other dealers who are engaging in these practices."
Her group's polling research shows consumers expect any used vehicle sold by a retailer to be safe.
"Almost everybody feels used cars for sale should be safe," she said.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.