Recalled Used Vehicles Sold and Rented to Public Without Repairs
After General Motors recalled 2.6 million vehicles for a faulty ignition switch, the nation has increased scrutiny of gaps in federal law regarding safety recalls — including the fact that used car dealers and rental car companies are not required to have recalled vehicles fixed before selling or renting them to the public. Nor is there any legal requirement to inform the buyer or renter that the vehicle has been recalled.
In the absence of legislation, the dealer or rental company is able to choose whether to make repairs, even for safety issues with the potential to result in serious auto accidents.
Proposed legislation to require such repairs and disclosures has stalled in Congress and is opposed by car dealers and many manufacturers. Dealers argue that not all recalls involve pressing issues, but federal regulators say that a recall, by its nature, involves a serious safety concern. Auto makers say they are not opposed to mandatory repairs in principle, but that they want protection from rental car companies that could sue over the loss of business when vehicles are recalled.
In 2012, the largest rental car companies agreed to fix recalled vehicles before renting them, according to the American Car Rental Association. However, without federal legislation in place, they have no legal requirement to do so. Consumers must take the rental car company’s word that repairs were made, and they have limited legal recourse if that promise is not kept.
Two separate measures are being considered by Congress. The Grow America Act, a four-year budget plan for the U.S. Department of Transportation, includes provisions that would require rental companies and car dealers to fix vehicles before renting or selling them. That proposal is being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee.
A separate measure, applying only to rental cars, was introduced in 2011, partly in reaction to the death of two sisters who were killed in a fiery crash involving a recalled but unrepaired vehicle. That measure may become part of a larger bill.
A representative of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety said that the legislation is needed and that it is a question of “how many people have to be killed or injured” before action is taken.