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 Most recently, the car dealers’ bills were withdrawn in New York and Massachusetts, once lawmakers realized how harmful they would be.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
Alexander Brangman, father of Jewel Brangman, who was killed by an unrepaired recalled car
New Jersey State Bar Association
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
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?
NJ Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Hit the Brakes on Bill Favoring Auto Dealers