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State Senate Bill May Prohibit Sale of Recalled Used Cars


In a conference call, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, along with Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, discussed a bill to prohibit car dealers from selling, leasing, renting, or loaning used cars that are under a federal safety recall until they are fixed. Federal law already prohibits new cars from being sold when they have known recall defects, but this law would extend the ban to used cars in California.

Jackson recounted the recent news of the General Motors recall discrepancies and discussed the problem consumers face when they assume cars deemed “certified” by dealerships are safe. She stated, “SB 686 would be the first of its kind in the country, and until they are safe and fixed, these cars shouldn’t be for sale and shouldn’t be on the road. It’s as simple as that.” The bill would allow dealerships to sell defective used cars to each other but would prohibit sales to consumers.

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), a key supporter of the bill, conducted a poll and found that 88 percent of California voters support legislation to stop car dealers from selling unrepaired recalled used cars to consumers. Rosemary Shahan said there is “almost universal support for the bill from all except car dealerships” and that 36 million, or one in seven, cars on the road today are subject to a safety recall but have never been repaired.

In support of the bill, three consumers told their stories of how used cars were sold to them with safety recall defects. Cally Houck’s two daughters were killed when she had an accident in a rented 2004 PT Cruiser. Houck’s 2007 accident was directly caused by the defect that put the car on the recall list. After 2007, Chrysler used-car dealerships, and other used-car dealers, sold 2,000 more PT Cruisers with the same defect. Damien Snow purchased one of those vehicles at a large used-car dealership in Los Angeles in 2010 and was in an accident soon after. No one was injured, and it was a minor collision, but the event led him to research the car. When he found out it was on the recall list, he also learned about the deaths of Houck’s daughters due to a power-steering defect.

While this bill would not prevent rental companies from renting out vehicles on recall lists, Shahan explained this is because Senator Barbara Boxer is already working on a federal law regarding rental car companies. Shahan said it is much more difficult to do the same thing with car dealerships because they hold so much sway in Congress. Shahan and Jackson also pointed to the fact that during litigation for cases such as Houck’s, car dealers usually settle with confidentiality provisos, which has made it very hard to track these events and prove fault.

Jackson noted the bill would also improve the economy because it would call for over 1,000 mechanic jobs in the State of California alone. SB 686 is “critical for consumer safety, good for the economy, and will put California at the forefront of car safety,” Jackson stated.

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