Consumer, safety groups fight back against car dealer “license to kill” legislation in New Jersey

Unscrupulous car dealers got New Jersey Senator James Beach and Assemblymember Louis Greenwald to carry anti-consumer, anti-safety, anti-enviroment legislation that threatens to open the floodgates for car dealers to sell hazardous recalled used cars in New Jersey, endangering the lives of their customers, their families and other passengers, and all who share the roads.

The bills would also allow New Jersey car dealers to sell vehicles that fail to comply with federal clean air / emissions standards.

The bills, S2740 and A4292, are the epitome of special-interest legislation.  “Coincidentally,” the owners of the Foulke car dealerships in Cherry Hill, NJ, contributed over $500,000 to a leadership PAC controlled by NJ Democratic power broker George Norcross shortly before the elections in NJ last November. So some politicians, such as Senate President Steve Sweeney, are likely to feel beholden to them for winning their seats.

The Foulke car dealerships have come under fire from NJ’s Attorney General for allegedly engaging in a number of illegal practices, and have been enjoined from engaging in such activity.

Assemblymember Greenwald, author of A4292, also has close ties with auto dealers, and has carried legislation that favors car dealers before.

The “license to kill” bills in NJ are similar to other measures that legislators have rejected in other states where car dealers got them introduced. Most recently, the car dealers’ bills were withdrawn in New York and Massachusetts, once lawmakers realized how harmful they would be.  Similar bills have also been defeated, or had the harmful provisions removed, in California, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia. New Jersey legislators rejected a similar measure authored by Assemblymember Moriarty in 2015.

There is overwhelming public opposition to allowing car dealers to sell recalled used cars, with or without “disclosure,” which merely shifts legal liability onto victims. Statewide polling in New Jersey found that hardly anyone thinks such a law would be a good idea.

The car dealer “license to kill” bills are opposed by the nation’s leading consumer / auto safety organizations, plus major consumer, civil rights, and environmental groups in New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Bar Association.

They are also opposed by safety advocate Alexander Brangman, whose daughter Jewel was only 26 when she was killed by an unrepaired recalled Honda Civic with an exploding Takata airbag. She was in a low-speed collision involving multiple cars. Everyone else walked away. But the defective Takata airbag spewed metal fragments into the passenger compartment, severing an artery in Jewel’s neck, causing her to bleed to death.

The only supporters of the anti-consumer bills are trade associations for car dealers, who seek to evade legal liability for engaging in fraud and selling deathtrap cars. Attorneys for car dealers have advised them that the legislation is needed in order to eliminate the existing protections under various state laws, which prohibit auto dealers from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts and practices, violating express or implied warranties, committing fraud by misrepresenting the condition of the car or concealing a material fact such as the safety recall status, failing to fulfill their common law duty of care, being negligent, or causing wrongful death.

The New Jersey bills are even worse than in other states, because they would also drastically limit attorneys fees for victims of fraud committed by car dealers, making it virtually impossible for individual attorneys or the state’s Attorney General to act, regardless how harmful and widespread the car dealers’ practices are, or how many victims are harmed.

That means that even if the dealers fail to “disclose” the safety recalls, and make false claims about the safety of the cars they sell, they can evade being held accountable.

Here are some of the letters of opposition to the car dealer bills:

Consumer Federation of America, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Consumer Action, and The Safety Institute

Center for Auto Safety

Alexander Brangman, father of Jewel Brangman, who was killed by an unrepaired recalled car

New Jersey State Bar Association

Consumers Union

New Jersey Citizen Action, Sierra Club of New Jersey, NAACP New Jersey, The Latino Action Network, Ironbound Community Corporation, La Casa De Don Pedro, New Jersey Tenants Organization, Environment New Jersey, American Federation of Teachers Local 2274 Ramapo College of New Jersey

Consumers League of New Jersey

Pam Fischer, founder of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition and former Director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety

Garden State Bar Association

News reports:

Philadelphia Inquirer: N.J. considers a consumer bill that only car dealers love

News 12 Investigates: Car recall bill may provide less protection in legal disputes

News 12 Investigates:  Groups oppose bill to require auto dealers to notify buyers about recalls

NJ101.5 Radio: Consumer groups fear the backhand effects of New Jersey car recall legislation

NJTV: Would new bill harm or help consumers buying used cars?

Editorial:

NJ Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Hit the Brakes on Bill Favoring Auto Dealers

 

 

Pennsylvania passes Car Dealer “License to Kill” Law

Life in Pennsylvania just got a lot more dangerous. Caving in to unscrupulous car dealers, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill that was opposed by the nation’s leading auto safety organizations, that will make Pennsylvania into a dumping ground for unsafe recalled cars.

The new PA law in Pennsylvania allows car dealers to get away with selling defective recalled used cars, without getting the safety recall defects repaired first — no matter how hazardous the defects are.

Similar car dealer bills have failed to pass in other states, including New Jersey, California, New York, Maryland, and Virginia. The only other state to pass such a law is Tennessee, where dealers got legislators to sneak their bill through under the radar, on the last day of session, with no public discussion or debate.

The Pennsylvania legislation was opposed by the nation’s leading consumer / auto safety organizations, and by Ralph Nader and Alexander Brangman, whose daughter Jewel was killed by an exploding Takata airbag in a recalled Honda Civic.

Their letters of opposition:

Alexander Brangman, father of Jewel Brangman

Ralph Nader

Consumer Federation of America, The Safety Institute, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Consumer Action, and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Center for Auto Safety

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Here’s what can happen when someone is sold an unrepaired recalled car:

“Dad dies saving daughter from icy pond.  Car had been recalled for brake problem.”

Republican Rep. James R. Santora carried HB 1898 at the behest of the car dealers like CarMax, which recently lost a major appellate court decision in a case brought by a customer in Bakersfield, California, Tammy Gutierrez. That decision may set a good precedent for other consumers who have been sold dangerous recalled used cars.

Pennsylvania’s new law allows car dealers to fatten their profits by low-balling consumers who trade in cars with unrepaired safety recall defects, then turn around and sell them at top dollar to other consumers — without getting them fixed. All they have to do to comply with the new law is to slip a copy of the safety recall notice in a stack of papers — instead of making sure the cars are actually safe to drive.

In fact, the law actually is worse than that, because it says if the dealer fails to even provide this sham type of “disclosure” to an unlimited number of consumers, all of those violations of the law count only as a single offense, punishable by a mere $1000.

It’s a violation of federal law for car dealers to sell recalled cars as NEW cars. While there isn’t a similar specific federal law to protect used car buyers, many state consumer protection laws exist to prohibit such practices.

Currently, state laws in PA and the other 49 states prohibit violations of the common law duty of care, or prohibit engaging in unfair or deceptive acts and practices, acting with negligence, or causing a wrongful death. Such laws – which apply to all businesses, including car dealers — carry potentially extremely serious sanctions.

But under the new law, car dealers won’t have to worry about being held liable if someone is injured or killed.

The biggest beneficiary under the new law will be CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars. Research performed by the CARS Foundation, MASSPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group found that over 25% of vehicles CarMax offered for sale in 6 locations across the nation had at least one unrepaired safety recall.  Many had multiple safety recall defects.  One pickup truck CarMax advertised for sale in Massachusetts had 6 unrepaired safety recalls, including two for catching on fire.

News report by Consumer Affairs:

“Pennsylvania passes law that will make it easier for car dealers to sell lemons, safety groups say”

Why don’t consumers get safety recalls done? They’re afraid of car dealers.

Safety recall defects are dangerous, putting precious lives at risk. So why don’t consumers get safety recall repairs done?  Surveys show that a major reason is that many consumers are afraid of taking their car to a car dealer.

According to a report in the Detroit News:

“The big problem is that recalls depend upon the private vehicle owner to take the car to a dealer and get it fixed. In newer cars, that compliance rate is more than 80 percent, but when a car is five years old or older, the rate drops to around 44 percent, according to a new survey by ChecktoProtect.org which was founded by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and the nonprofit National Safety Council and announced June 22.

Surveys done by Autotrader.com show that a lot of car buyers don’t trust dealers to fix recall issues properly, and they also worry about the dealer charging them extra for non-recall repairs.”

Read more: Detroit News: “As vehicle recalls multiply, technology gets the blame”

 

Cars with deadly Takata airbags you may not even know about

Last March, Las Vegas teen Karina Dorado was in a low-speed crash that normally wouldn’t have resulted in serious injuries. But she was driving a 2002 Honda with a checkered past. It had once been in a crash and was “totaled” by the insurance company.  Some people might expect that to be the end of the road for that car.

But insurers auction off wrecked cars to the highest bidder. Those wrecks are often purchased by unlicensed, untrained rebuilders who lack the equipment, or the desire, to perform a proper repair.  It would be very expensive to fix the vehicles so that they are safe to drive.

Instead, they cut corners, leaving the vehicles with major problems that can cause death or serious injuries.

According to news reports, the Honda that Dorado was driving had a recycled recalled Takata airbag that was removed from a 2001 Honda Accord. It was not the original one that came with her car. Instead, it was a faulty airbag that was prone to exploding with excessive force, spraying metal fragments into the driver’s face and neck.  When her car was in the crash, metal from the recalled airbag punctured Dorado’s windpipe, almost causing her to bleed to death.

Under the the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, it is illegal to sell a used automotive part that was recalled, but not repaired. However, the law is seldom enforced.

How can you avoid buying a car with a recycled killer Takata airbag?

  1.  Check the federal database of total loss vehicles established by the U.S. Department of Justice. Keep in mind that no database is 100% complete, and there are huge gaps in each of them.  This one includes ONLY vehicles that were “totaled” by the insurer, or self-insured company (such as a rental car company).  It does NOT include vehicles that sustained major damage, but were not totaled, or recalled cars.
  2. ALWAYS get any used car you are considering buying inspected by both a skilled mechanic and a reputable auto body shop of YOUR choosing BEFORE you buy. Make sure they check for signs that the car was in a crash that may have caused the airbags to deploy. Don’t trust the seller. Insist on getting your own inspection. If they won’t let you do that, walk away. They are hiding something. A good place to find a good mechanic and body shop: Car Talk’s Mechanics Files

More tips on how to buy a car, without having to go to a car dealership

Read more:  KSAT Investigative report: Why are recalled Takata airbags being recycled?

Stalling defect in Kia and Hyundai vehicles may lead to expanded safety recalls

Link

Investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are delving into stalling problems in nearly 1.7 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles. They are following up on warnings from a whistleblower who had access to documents about the safety defect.

Earlier recalls over the stalling defect may not have included all the faulty cars. According to Reuters, “Kim Gwang-ho, then an engineer at Hyundai, flew to Washington in August 2016 to tell NHTSA the companies should have recalled more vehicles over the problem, citing an internal report. He also reported several alleged safety lapses to both U.S. and South Korean authorities.

On March 31, Hyundai expanded its original U.S. recall to 572,000 Sonata and Santa Fe Sport vehicles with “Theta II” engines, citing the same issue involving manufacturing debris, the NHTSA said. On the same day, Kia also recalled 618,160 Optima, Sorento and Sportage vehicles which use the same engine.”

Stalling in traffic is a serious safety defect, which can lead to a crash, injuring or killing the driver, passengers, and others who share the roads.

If your car intermittently stalls in traffic, or has another safety defect, here is where to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA has the authority to pressure auto manufacturers to issue safety recalls and to provide repairs at no cost to consumers, for up to 15 years after the recall is issued.

File an auto safety complaint with the NHTSA

Read more: Reuters: U.S. Regulators Open Probe into nearly 1.7 million Hyundai, Kia models

So what auto safety regulations will we lose?

President Trump has reportedly declared that he plans to get rid of 75% of federal regulations.  This is verrry scary stuff. Especially since states are prohibited from being able to act, to require auto manufacturers to build safety into their cars.  The states’ hands are tied. That means if we lose safety regulations in DC, nothing can be enacted in their place. No matter how bad the carnage gets.

So — which lifesaving auto safety regulations will Trump roll back? The one that requires seat belts to work in a crash? The one for fuel tank integrity, that requires cars to withstand a rear-end collision without exploding into flames?  The one that requires your car to offer a minimum level of side-impact protection for your head and torso if you are T-boned by a huge SUV that blows through an intersection, against the red light? The one that keeps SUVs from tipping over, killing drivers and passengers?

You have to wonder whether he, or anyone around him, has thought this through. What will happen to public confidence in the auto market when people realize that the cars they own now are actually safer than the newer ones, built under the anti-regulatory Trump regime?

What’s next? Autonomous cars a teenager can hack, or that could be controlled by Isis, Putin, or Kim Jong Un?

This is reminiscent of when GM, Chrysler, and Ford were so cocky about having the entire U.S. market to themselves. They sold huge numbers of atrocious lemon cars. They were lemons despite the fact the workers were doing their best. They were lemons by design. Worst of all, the auto manufacturers refused to stand behind them. They dismissed consumer complaints and stonewalled frustrated car owners.

The end result: car buyers revolted, all 50 states enacted lemon laws, and the auto import market was born, eventually overtaking the domestics by a mile, especially in markets like California.

GM, a former powerhouse, now has only a puny 9% of the California market. Its market share nationally has shrunken to just 17%.  People don’t forget easily, or quickly, when they have been sold a car that fails to meet reasonable expectations. Let alone one that kills.

Message to President Trump and the auto lobbyists:  Don’t delude yourselves. It can happen again. Markets can shift, and they can shrink. It’s entirely possible that Obama will be known for saving the American auto industry, and Trump for destroying it. Ultimately, it all depends on what millions of individual consumers, who value their lives and their families’ safety, decide.

Takata admits guilt. But who pays for cars with unsafe airbags?

Thanks to enforcement by the U.S. Department of Justice the Department of Transportation, and the FBI, airbag manufacturer Takata plead guilty to wire fraud and agreed to pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties. Why? Because the company had committed fraud, concealing dangerous defects in its airbag inflators, which have caused at least 11 deaths and approximately 180 injuries, including blindness and brain injuries, in the U.S.

According to the law enforcement agencies, Takata executives engaged in a cover-up that lasted for at least 15 years.

According to the DOJ, “Under the terms of the agreement, Takata will pay a total criminal penalty of $1 billion, including $975 million in restitution and a $25 million fine. Two restitution funds will be established: a $125 million fund for individuals who have been physically injured by Takata’s airbags and who have not already reached a settlement with the company, and a $850 million fund for airbag recall and replacement costs incurred by auto manufacturers who were victims of Takata’s fraud scheme. A court-appointed special master will oversee administration of the restitution funds.”

Sooo — if auto manufacturers are being compensated for losses associated with Takata’s fraud, why are they and their franchised dealers still selling cars with unsafe, unrepaired Takata airbags, which are being passed onto consumers at dealerships such as CarMax?

CarMax is notorious for selling cars with unrepaired safety recalls, including defective Takata airbags that are being recalled.  CarMax advertises that all its cars must pass a “rigorous inspection” in order to qualify to be sold as “CarMax Quality Certified” vehicles. But CarMax fails to get the safety recalls repaired.  Consumers who buy cars with dangerously defective Takata airbags from CarMax and other unscrupulous auto dealers may not realize that there is no way they can get their cars repaired for a long time, due to severe shortages of replacement airbags.

Read more: U.S. Department of Justice: Takata Agrees to Pay $1 Billion in Criminal Penalties for Airbag Scheme

 

Autonomous cars cause confusion, pose hazards

Auto manufacturers are rushing to be the first to sell cars that are semi-autonomous. But they have failed to invest in adequate training for sales personnel who can explain the features — and their limitations.

So what can go wrong?  Here’s one example: According to a recent report in Automotive News,  “As Donna Lee approached the intersection of Roberts Drive and Spalding Drive in Sandy Springs, Ga., the salesman in the passenger seat told her not to hit the brakes, even though two cars were stopped and waiting at the red light ahead.

According to court documents, Lee and Mercedes salesman Desmond Domingo have similar accounts of what happened next on the evening of May 10, 2014. The Distronic semiautonomous system in the Mercedes-Benz GL450, which Domingo believed would bring the car to a full stop, did not kick in as he expected. The Mercedes slammed into the car in front of it at around 40 mph, causing a chain reaction of crashes that left a 16-year-old driver with a concussion and significant damage to the cars involved.”

CARS has testified at forums regarding autonomous vehicles that they should not be offered for sale to the public until they are fully autonomous, and they have been proven safe through at least one year of real-life testing in all normal weather conditions, including heavy rain, fog, and snow. Otherwise, consumers who purchase the cars may end up stranded, or in collisions — particularly if they purchase the cars as used vehicles, and are not familiar with their limitations.

Read more:   Automotive News: Autonomous features ripe for misunderstanding

DO NOT drive these Honda cars. Get them fixed. NOW.

A 50-year-old Riverside, California woman was recently killed by a faulty, recalled airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic. Cutting corners on safety, airbag supplier Takata produced the airbag with cheap but volatile sodium nitrate.

In even a low-speed collision, the chemical explodes with excessive force, sending shards of metal into the passenger compartment. It’s been described as having a hand grenade go off in the car.

The woman, Delia Robles, was driving to get her flu shot when her Civic collided with a pickup truck. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been warning owners of the cars not to drive them, and to get them repaired immediately.  NHTSA found that in a collision where the airbags inflate, the odds of being killed are 50-50.  In other words, those cars are ticking time bombs.

Here are the cars that NHTSA has identified as posing the highest risk:

2001-2002 Honda Civic, 2001-2002 Honda Accord, 2002-2003 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V, 2002 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, 2003 Honda Pilot.

Honda is offering to tow these cars to dealerships for repairs. They should also offer to send roving mechanics to the owner’s home or workplace, since a leading barrier to getting repairs is the fact most people have only one car, and they depend on it to keep their job and get their kids to school. For many owners of recalled cars, the closest dealership may be a long distance away, and they may not be able to drop off their car on a weekday, and then get back home and back to work.

Owners of recalled cars may also have difficulty getting time off from work to drive a long distance for repairs. Many at-risk owners may not be proficient in English or Spanish, and may not understand the risks they face.

Some owners have also had bad experiences at car dealerships, and may be fearful of going to a dealership again. Unfortunately, some dealers may take advantage of the safety recalls to pressure them to buy another car, while holding their recalled car for repairs.

Where to check the safety recall status of your car, at a government website:

https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/

If you own one of these recalled cars, here’s what CARS recommends:

Contact Honda directly.  Here is Honda’s toll-free number:  1-888-234-2138

Take Honda’s offer to provide you with a loaner or rental car,  and also have them tow your car to the dealership for the FREE repairs.

Read more:

CNN report: Stop driving these cars NOW.

Daily News report: Many Southern California cars have dangerous airbags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Judge warns children not to buy from CarMax

During a hearing before the U.S. Federal District Court in Pasadena, California, Federal Judge Wardlaw tells CarMax’s attorney, “I have to tell you, having read what CarMax does, I have told both my children, don’t you buy a ‘certified’ car from CarMax.”

Watch video: Judge warns children about CarMax

Did CarMax sell you an unsafe recalled car?  We want to hear your story.  The only way to get CarMax to stop selling cars with lethal safety defects is for courageous consumers to speak up.  Contact us at:

http://carconsumers.org/contact.htm

 

National Automobile Dealers Association in denial about safety

The President of the National Automobile Dealers Association, Colorado car dealer Jeff Carlson, claims that only 6% of recalled vehicles are “hazardous.” That means he thinks that cars like this one, that killed a 17-year-old Texas teenager, are NOT “hazardous.”

ABC News report: 17-year-old killed by exploding Takata air bag

Try telling that to her family.

That also means that he doesn’t consider any of these defects, which have killed and maimed many car drivers and their passengers, to be “hazardous”:

  • Stalling in traffic
  • Catching on fire
  • Faulty brakes
  • Steering loss
  • Seat belts that fail in a crash
  • Axles that break
  • Hoods that fly up while you’re driving in traffic
  • Sticking accelerator pedals
  • GM ignition switches that turn off and eliminate power steering and braking, and cause air bags to fail to deploy

Automotive News report: Carlson vows to press NADA’s fight against regulation

Bottom line: Carlson and NADA cannot be trusted to decide whether a car is safe to sell. When it comes to safety, they are absolutely clueless. And a real danger to American society.

Used car buyers have friends in the White House in auto safety battle

America’s used car buyers and our nation’s roads will be a lot safer if the Obama Administration wins the battle against shady car dealers who sell unsafe, recalled cars to used car buyers.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Mark Rosekind, are urging Congress to make it illegal for car dealers to sell unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers.

They joined the President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety at a press conference in Richmond, VA, along with representatives of Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis, and the American Car Rental Association, who have been working together with CARS to enact federal rental car safety legislation. Auto manufacturers (except GM) and car dealers are blocking the rental car safety bill, and lobbying Congress to weaken protections for America’s car buyers.

It is historic for a President and his safety team to call for people who rent cars, or purchase used cars, to have the same level of protection as new car buyers. Under federal law, it is illegal for car dealers to sell recalled cars with lethal safety defects to NEW car buyers. That has been the law since the 1960’s. But there is no similar federal law to protect people who rent cars or purchase used cars.

“What we need now is for Congress to step up, and to make renting or selling a recalled vehicle [to a consumer] illegal,” said Secretary Foxx.

Read more: US DOT safety recall news