EDITORIAL: Ban the sale of used cars that have safety defects
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No car dealer should be allowed by law to sell a car that is unsafe.
You might not think we need such a law. You might think no car dealer, just as a matter of common sense, would sell an unsafe car.
Then again, that would mean putting safety ahead of profits in business, a ranking of priorities with a shaky history.
This is why we need a federal law requiring used car dealers to repair before selling any vehicle that is subject to a safety recall.
Dealers such as CarMax oppose such a law. They say it’s sufficient to inform a buyer that a car is subject to an open safety recall, which is common, and leave it to the customer to take the car in for a free repair by an authorized mechanic. But there’s no law that says dealers of used cars even have to tell a customer that a car is subject to a recall, and that would be a second-best solution.
Dealers object that such a law would leave them at a competitive disadvantage. Authorized repair shops, the dealers explain, also are competitors, so the repair shops slow-walk making repairs for dealers. Also, the dealers say, when they’ve tried this in the past — no sale until a recall repair is made — they have lost business to competitors who did not follow suit.
Tell that to Corey Jackson, a man from Markham who bought a used Buick LaCrosse from a lot in South Chicago Heights in 2016. Seven months later, according to his lawyers, he crashed his car into a tree when his ignition switch failed, shutting off the engine and his ability to steer. He was knocked unconscious, lost several teeth and suffered a broken jaw.
“Nothing was said, nothing about a recall,” Jackson told Sun-Times consumer investigations reporter Stephanie Zimmermann in a Watchdogs report this weekend. “You feel deceived.”
As Zimmermann reported, used car sales in which buyers are never told that a vehicle is subject to a recall are common. Check it out for yourself. Online sales listings include vehicles with defective airbag inflators, defective software that can cause a vehicle to accelerate without warning and defective latches that can cause a tailgate to flip open at any time.
In some cases, Zimmermann reported, people have been killed in cars they didn’t know were under recall.
By law, new vehicles that are subject to open recalls cannot be sold or rented. Only used vehicles can be sold without this sensible consumer protection.
It’s an easy fix, like the ignition switch repair that should have been made on Jackson’s Buick.
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