While buying a used car might sound like a great way to save money, a new investigation allegedly found that buying from AutoNation could mean the possibility of buying a car that AutoNation knows is defective (or is subject to recall) but never bothered to have repaired or to resolve the recall issue.

There is a federal law that prevents auto dealers from selling new defective automobiles, but there is no such law to prevent anyone from selling used cars with defects. A new federal bill was recently introduced that would close that loophole, but we have yet to see what the fate of that bill will be. In the meantime, some states have local laws against selling defective vehicles (new or otherwise), so if you live in a state with such protections and you recently bought a defective used car, you can sue the dealer that sold you the defective vehicle.

Over the summer, an investigation by the US PIRG Education Fund and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation was conducted into AutoNation, the country’s largest automobile retailer. The investigation looked into more than 2,000 vehicles sold at 28 different dealerships in 12 different states in the months of July and August 2019. Out of the vehicles studied, the researches allegedly found 285 cars with unrepaired safety recalls, including everything from malfunctioning airbags to malfunctioning ignition switches.

The investigation allegedly found that roughly one in nine of the vehicles studies contained some sort of unresolved safety recall. This is true even of vehicles that have been certified preowned, which should mean they have been thoroughly inspected and approved for resale with an extended warranty. Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made a deal with AutoNation that allowed the vehicle retailer to advertise defective vehicles as certified preowned, even if they had unresolved recalls.

In most cases, manufacturers notify dealers and vehicle owners of a recall so they can repair the vehicles, but AutoNation has allegedly been failing to do that with vehicles it knows have been recalled. This is in spite of the fact that most AutoNation dealerships are affiliated with automobile manufacturers, and as such, should not have a problem making on-site repairs to dangerous vehicles.

While AutoNation does have information on its website about recalls, a spokesperson from PIRG said the dealer isn’t doing enough to actively warn its customers about the risks they face when buying a potentially faulty vehicle from them. Consumers trust the people they buy their cars from to sell them safe vehicles, and few consumers will take the time to search a dealer’s website about recalls before making a purchase.

The spokesperson added that, even though there is no federal law against AutoNation selling defective used cars, it is a problem that has the potential to put AutoNation’s customers in danger, which means AutoNation selling these vehicles at all is unethical at the very least, if not dangerous. With recalls such as the Takata airbag recall being linked to 24 deaths and more than 200 injuries, and the General Motors ignition switch recall is linked to 124 deaths, AutoNation is knowingly putting its customers at risk by continuing to sell defective vehicles.

In September of 2015, Mike Jackson, who at that time was CEO of AutoNation, pledged to not sell any cars with unresolved safety recalls, despite the fact that making such a pledge put him in direct opposition to the National Automobile Dealers Association. However, Jackson, according to report in the press, allegedly went back on his promise, pointing out that a Trump administration would never address the issue.

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