Consumer groups hit car dealer over recalled vehicles

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – Consumer advocate groups on Monday called upon Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate used car dealer CarMax, claiming that the dealer has sold recalled vehicles to drivers in Massachusetts.

The MASSPIRG Education Fund and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation on Monday reported a joint investigation found that 17 percent of the cars available for purchase at CarMax’s North Attleborough dealership were subject to at least one federal safety recall that had not been addressed.

“Consumers rightly have the expectation that when shopping at any car dealership they will be sold a safe car, and at the very least, they certainly would not expect that any car for sale would still be under a safety recall,” MASSPIRG Legislative Director Deirdre Cummings said during a press conference on Boston Common.

[Watch: Press Conference]

Cummings said the necessary repairs to address the safety issues were, in many cases, available free of charge to CarMax, which instead leaves it up to the consumer to remedy the problem that prompted the recall.

Healey’s office said in statement to the News Service that it is “aware of MassPIRG’s request and we will be studying their report closely.”

Safety advocate Sean Kane, president of the board of directors for The Safety Institute, said he went to CarMax in North Attleborough to buy a car for his family as part of an investigation of CarMax’s practices.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee he was interested in had passed the CarMax safety inspection, he said, and the salesperson told him that the Jeep was safe to drive despite the car having three unrepaired safety recalls.

Kane stood in front of the Jeep he bought Nov. 30 from CarMax as he recounted how the dealership downplayed the significance of those recalls.

“I specifically told CarMax I wanted to buy a safe vehicle for my family, and they sold me a vehicle with three potentially lethal safety defects – sudden engine shutdown, faulty brakes and a fire hazard,” Kane said.

CarMax, in a statement, said that Kane “knew about the open recalls prior to sale and he purchased the vehicle nonetheless, despite having the opportunity to walk away or return the vehicle.”

The dealership also said the current recall system is based upon the relationship between auto manufacturers and registered dealers or car owners, and does not include independent auto retailers like CarMax.

“Among other things, this means that manufacturers have not authorized CarMax to complete recall repairs and close out recalls,” the company said in a statement. “Our experience shows us customers are in the best position to act on recall information directly with a manufacturer-authorized dealer. We have found that dealers are often more likely to provide timely recall repair to customers rather than to a competitor, like CarMax, so we encourage customers to have recalls repaired at a manufacturer-authorized facility.”

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has proposed legislation with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal to make the sale of an unrepaired recalled used car a violation of federal law. Markey was scheduled to attend MASSPIRG’s news conference on Monday but was diverted by a “last-minute conflict,” Cummings said.

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