A new investigative report by Circa, a news service for mobile devices, details how the U.S. General Services Administration is apparently auctioning off vehicles to the general public, despite the fact that these vehicles still have open recalls.
Vehicle recall response rates are already low. A federal law passed this summer (after years of legislative wrangling) requires rental car companies to repair any recalled vehicle before it is rented out. However, it remains legal for used car companies to sell vehicles that are under recall.
Still, one might expect the federal government to be held to a higher standard when it comes to distributing potentially dangerous products to the public. That’s what makes the new report on the GSA so troubling.
The GSA gets its fleet from the thousands of government-owned cars that are retired by various agencies each year. Annually, between 35,000 and 40,000 are put up for public auction. Although used car dealerships often seize on these opportunities, such auctions are open to the public. Yet the types of defects these vehicles reportedly had are potentially deadly. For example, some vehicles still had open recalls for steering issues that had resulted in operators losing control. Others were still under recall due to their Takata airbags, which have the potential to deploy violently and spew metal shrapnel at drivers and front seat passengers. There were also a number of vehicles that investigators learned had engine failures that could result in the car stopping suddenly while it was in drive.
In some cases, the recall fixes would have been free. While the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the agency that issues notices of recall and informs the public of their duty to have these vehicle defects repaired, due to the safety risks they impose on everyone, the GSA is flouting these rules.
Circa used a fleet management company called AutoAp to help analyze the data they had received from the GSA about its fleet. Of the 2,037 vehicles the GSA put up for auction in August 2016, 427 still had open recalls. That’s nearly 21 percent of the entire fleet.
Now, to be clear, there is nothing illegal about such sales. As our car accident lawyers noted earlier, it’s not against the law to sell used cars with open recalls. Under federal law, it’s only illegal for new car dealerships to sell vehicles with open recalls to the public.
GSA representatives released a statement saying they warn all bidders and buyers at the auctions that the vehicles in question may have outstanding recalls, and it is up to those individuals to look into the recall status of the vehicle.
Another troubling fact is that service tags on some of these vehicles indicate they were driven by federal government employees months or sometimes even years after the recall notices on those vehicles were issued. That means that not only were the federal workers at risk, but also so was everyone who shared the road with them before the vehicle was officially retired. Some of the agencies found to have allowed workers to drive recalled vehicles without fixing them include the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Army, and numerous law enforcement agencies.
As a result of Circa’s report, which was released in early October, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC 11th District), Chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, has said a federal investigation needs to be launched.
Meadows called it “troubling” that it took a news organization to uncover something federal agencies should have been taking steps to correct.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
The government is selling the public cars without repairing safety recall defects, Oct. 5, 2016, By Joce Sterman and Alex Brauer, Circa
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