LOS ANGELES -- California lawmakers are considering potentially precedent-setting legislation designed to protect consumers from unknowingly buying used vehicles that have been recalled but not repaired.
The measure would increase the recall disclosure requirements for automakers and sellers of used vehicles, and require repairs before sale in some cases. In the case of the most serious safety issues -- those that warrant a stop-sale or stop-drive order from the manufacturer or regulators -- it would bar dealers and even private parties from selling used vehicles under recall.
The legislation represents a compromise between safety advocates trying to close the used-car gaps in the recall notification system, and California’s new-car dealers, who have been wary of taking on the burden of performing recall repairs on used cars -- especially for brands that they don’t normally service.
Tighter rules in California, the nation’s largest car market, could establish a template for similar actions by other states and the federal government to improve repair rates on recalled cars.
“California already has the strongest car buyer protection laws in the nation, but we need to enhance those laws to improve the information provided to consumers, increase consumer protections and ensure recalls are getting fixed,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon, the bill’s primary author, in a statement. “By taking the most dangerous vehicles off the road and encouraging consumers to fix recalled vehicles at no cost, California is attacking this crisis more aggressively than any other state.”
The bill dovetails with efforts in Washington to strengthen recall notification requirements and solve the nagging problems related to secondhand vehicles, which are sold through dispersed sales channels and whose owners are harder to track through automaker and dealer records.
Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, went public with an effort to get Congress to pass legislation requiring used-car dealers and rental-car agencies to repair vehicles with a safety recall before selling or renting them.
But one sticking point has been whether franchised dealers should be obligated to get 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.
The California bill now moving through the Legislature, which has the support of the California New Car Dealers Association, would mitigate that burden somewhat. Franchised dealers would be required to repair used vehicles from a brand they sell, prior to the sale. For vehicles of a different brand, they would be required to notify the prospective buyer of the pending recall and refer the buyer to a dealership that can perform the repair.
That’s not enough to prevent potential accidents, says Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, who argues that the provision would allow unrepaired cars to go back on the road.
“If any vehicle is under safety recall, they should have to get it fixed before they can sell it,” said Shahan. With the bill still allowing a recalled car to be sold if the buyer is notified and signs off on the notification, “it’s a trap for consumers,” she said.
The California bill would also prohibit car dealers and rental-car companies from selling, leasing or renting vehicles that are subject to stop-drive or stop-sale orders. And it would require automakers to conspicuously indicate on their websites and on all recall notifications whether a vehicle is subject to a stop-drive or stop-sale order.