CarMax Inc. is under attack from consumer activist groups in California after a study found vehicles with open safety recalls for sale at two of its stores in the state.
Research by California Public Interest Research Group and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation found that 10 percent of the vehicles CarMax offered for sale at its Oxnard store on May 20-21 and 9 percent of vehicles offered at its Sacramento South store on May 26-27 were subject to safety recalls.
Those unfixed safety recalls included faulty antilock brakes; seat belts that may not provide adequate protection in a crash; airbags that may not inflate in the event of a crash; and defects that could lead to the vehicles catching on fire in one case and rolling away while unattended in another, the study said.
The CARS Foundation and CALPIRG called for the California attorney general and the state Department of Motor Vehicles to investigate and take action against CarMax under consumer-protection laws to prevent the retailer from selling recalled vehicles that have not been repaired.
“We all have a stake in seeing that CarMax ensures that the cars it sells are safe to drive, and gets all unrepaired safety recalls fixed prior to selling cars to consumers,” CALPIRG Education Fund program director Jason Pfeifle said in a statement released Tuesday.
CarMax, the nation’s largest used-vehicle retailer, cannot independently complete safety recall repairs because its used-only stores are not manufacturer-registered. The retailer refers its customers to manufacturer-franchised dealerships to complete safety recall repairs.
“We have found that dealerships are often more likely to provide timely recall repair to customers rather than to a competitor, like CarMax,” the company said in a statement released the same day the CALPIRG study was released.
CarMax’s website is equipped with links to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s VIN lookup website, allowing customers to check on open recalls on any CarMax vehicle, the company statement said.
If a used vehicle does have an open safety recall, a CarMax associate is required to provide the customer with the NHTSA recall report, and the customer must sign a form acknowledging its receipt.
A CarMax spokesperson was not immediately available to comment further.
CARS Foundation President Rosemary Shahan isn’t impressed by CarMax’s approach.
“I think it’s even worse because it’s not inadvertent,” she said. “They are knowingly and deliberately selling vehicles with open safety recalls.”
In the statement, she added, “CarMax is selling ticking time-bomb cars in California. That has to stop.”
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