Business & Tech

Unfixed recalls in one-in-four cars at CarMax, study says

A review of eight CarMax Inc. locations by safety advocates found more than one-in-four vehicles reviewed had unrepaired safety recalls, including some with air bag inflators linked to deadly malfunctions.

A total of 461 vehicles contained at least one outstanding safety recall that had not been repaired, 41 of which had recalls for which no repair was available, the review by safety advocates found. The study looked at the recall status of about 1,700 used autos listed for sale at eight CarMax dealerships in three US states.

Of those, 45 vehicles contained air bag inflators made by Takata Corp., the company behind the largest auto recall in history, that were subject to recall but had not yet been repaired.


The defects include fire risks and other hazards that have been linked to deaths and injuries, said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, one of the groups that did the study. The Center for Auto Safety and the MASSPIRG Education Fund, an advocacy group, also were part of the research.

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Selling used cars with unrepaired safety recalls, while not prohibited under federal law, is condemned by auto safety and consumer advocates who say it puts unsuspecting drivers at risk.

The practice has also drawn fire from Democrats in Congress who have tried to ban the practice. It’s illegal to sell new cars with safety recalls that have not been remedied.

Yet only franchised new-car dealers can complete recall repairs. Independent dealerships such as CarMax cannot.

CarMax said in a statement Thursday that each vehicle listing on its website includes a link to search for open recalls affecting that vehicle. Employees review vehicle recall information with customers and customers sign a form acknowledging they’ve received NHTSA recall information prior to signing sales paperwork, according to the company.


“We are dedicated to making sure our customers know about open recalls prior to purchase,” CarMax chief operating officer Cliff Wood said in a statement.

Disclosing recall status to consumers is not good enough, said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. He cited a pickup truck listed by CarMax that the survey found with six unrepaired safety recalls presenting risks including engine fire and air bag failure. “This is the sort of situation that disclosure does not fix,” Levine said in a call with reporters.

Some officials have tried to crack down on the practice where they can.

More than 100 auto dealers operating in New York state settled with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in April after a probe found hundreds of used autos had been sold with unrepaired safety recalls to customers.

The dealers agreed to disclose open recalls to future customers and pay a $1,000 fine.