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While it is still legal to sell pre-owned vehicles with open recalls, the National Highway & Transportation Safety Administration has advocated that these vehicles not be sold -- Similar to how it is illegal for auto dealers to sell new cars, or for any rental car agency to rent vehicles with open recalls. The issue is still being debated, yet, at the moment, pre-owned cars with open recalls still remain eligible for sale.
Even the government has internal problems handling recalls. According to a letter written by three members of the House of Representatives to General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator, Denise Turner Roth, despite the fact that the GSA has a system which notifies them of open recalls for government vehicles in use, the agency continues to sell these vehicles at auction.
Instead of revealing any open recalls to a potential buyer, apparently, the GSA absolves itself of liability through a general disclaimer. While the GSA will pull these vehicles out of service when notified of an open recall and not allow their employees to drive them, they still dispose of them through auctions -- in essence implying that while the vehicle is unsafe for government employee use, they willing to pass the risk on to any subsequent buyer or owner.
Most consumers would probably assume that government agencies would refuse to sell these vehicles without first fixing all recalls – so as to maintain a consistent front with the NHTSA stance that these vehicles are dangerous and should not be sold.
My best guess is that the GSA is simply doing the job it is tasked with – namely disposing of government property that is no longer in use so as to recover some of its investment. The internal policies that cause this practice to continue could easily be rectified – without the need to pass any legislation. While the NHTSA is pushing for this standard to become law, the government agencies themselves could choose to implement their own policies internally and refuse to sell these vehicles, effectively protecting the American consumer from dangerous vehicles owned by its government.
American consumers generally hold the Federal government to a higher standard. They expect that the government would look out for the safety of its constituents by ensuring a cessation of sales of any dangerous vehicles. Available technology makes it easy to check recall information and it is no longer an arduous chore.
Recalls are such a pressing issue and there is enough confusion out there already with all the media reports and hype. Many consumers are already in a state of electrification. I feel it is important that government agencies offer a united front to consumers and should be on the same page. I sincerely hope the GSA takes heed of the NHTSA’s advice and discontinues this practice. It is important to put consumer’s minds at rest and to ensure that no lives are at risk due to vehicles purchased from the government with any open recall.