"Law Could Turn Tennessee into Dumping Ground
for Dangerous Cars"
for Dangerous Cars"
News Channel 5
January 10, 2018
January 10, 2018
Stephanie Erdman was blinded in one eye by an exploding Takata airbag in a recalled Honda. Other victims have bled to death. Tennessee's new law makes it easier for car dealers to get away with selling recalled used cars with this life-threatening safety defect.
On January 1, Tennessee became the first, and only, state in the nation to ease restrictions against auto dealers who wish to profit from selling unrepaired recalled used cars to consumers at top dollar, without getting the safety recall repairs performed first.
That's because last year, in the waning hours of the legislative session, legislators in Nashville caved in to auto dealers and quietly sneaked through legislation that has been rejected in every other state where it was introduced.
Similar legislation backed by auto dealers in other states, such as New Jersey, California, Maryland, and Virginia, were opposed by leading auto safety organizations and consumer groups, and defeated.
"Tennessee's new law makes it easier for crooked car dealers to get away with selling unsafe, defective recalled cars," said Andy Spears, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action.
"This horrible law weakens state legal protections that helped deter unscrupulous dealers from selling cars with lethal safety defects to consumers," said Steven Taterka of Kingston Springs, TN, a former Assistant Attorney General of Tennessee who specializes in representing consumers in auto fraud cases against car dealers and auto manufacturers.
"Tragically, Tennessee's new law is likely to result in more dealers in that state engaging in 'recalled used car roulette,'" said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety.
Statewide polling conducted December 14-15 in Tennessee by Public Policy Polling found that a whopping 89% of the state's voters agreed that when there is a federal safety recall for a dangerous car, auto dealers should not be able to sell them until they have been fixed. The percentage is even higher – between 93-94%, when the defects are specified, such as catching on fire, steering loss, exploding airbags. The public in Tennessee also resoundingly rejects the concept of allowing dealers to sell unsafe recalled used cars if they merely "disclose" the recall status.
Under federal law, it is illegal for auto dealers to sell new vehicles that the manufacturers have recalled due to safety defects. There is also a federal law that prohibits rental car companies with fleets of 35 or more rental vehicles from renting, loaning, or selling unrepaired recalled cars. This law, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, applies to millions of used cars.
While there is no similar federal prohibition against dealers selling other recalled used cars, state laws in all 50 states have made it illegal for dealers to sell unsafe recalled used cars. For example, such practices may violate the dealer's common law duty of care, or statutes against unfair and deceptive acts and practices, or express or implied warranties, or against negligence or wrongful death.
Dealers who sell unsafe vehicles face tough sanctions under various state laws in other states, including loss of their license to sell vehicles, or – if someone is injured or killed as a result – even fines and other criminal penalties.
Laws in all 50 states already make it illegal for dealers to sell unsafe recalled used cars. this law means that Tennessee car buyers and their passengers and families are losing protections that existed before, and continue to exist in the other 49 states.
"Unfortunately, Tennessee will become a dumping ground for unsafe recalled cars," predicted Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a non-profit auto safety organization which has been in the forefront in defeating similar dealer-backed bills in other states.
"The new law doesn't even require dealers to disclose safety recalls, because it lets them use any database they wish – including private databases with big holes that fail to include many vehicles that are being recalled. If the car doesn't show up in that database, they don't have to disclose anything," said Sean Kane, Founder and President of The Safety Institute.
The new law requires dealers to repair recalled used vehicles only if the safety recall notice the dealer chooses to check indicates that the manufacturer has issued a "do not drive" or "do not sell" warning. However, safety recall notices generally do not include such information. So any supposed safety benefits are a sham.
Furthermore, historically auto manufacturers have issued such warnings only regarding about 6% of recalled vehicles, usually when the vehicle is being launched as a new model and bad publicity about fatalities and injuries might hamper new car sales. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lacks the authority to require manufacturers to issue "do not drive" warnings, no matter how dangerous the vehicles are.
Types of safety defects where the manufacturer did not issue a "do not drive" warning:
- Catching on fire
- Wheels that fall off
- Exploding Takata airbags that spew shrapnel into the passenger compartment, causing blindness or
- GM ignition switch defect that causes loss of power steering and braking, and airbag failures to inflate when needed in a crash
- Faulty brakes
- Sticking accelerator pedals