A “Certified” Used Car May Still be Hiding Something

Categories: Lemon Law

California Lemon Law Attorney

On September 30th of last year, a 50-year-old woman from Corona was on her way to get a flu shot at a Riverside clinic. She was driving a used Honda Civic recently purchased through a private-party transaction. At the intersection of Monroe Street and Diana Avenue in Riverside, she collided with another vehicle after it turned left in front of her. She was only traveling 25 mph at the time, but the accident took her life. Federal investigators later determined that her death was the result of airbags in her Honda deploying with too much force.

The airbags involved in the accident were manufactured by Takata Corporation. Their faulty design is responsible for the biggest vehicle recall ever, a recall that was in effect at the time the Corona woman bought her used Honda. Purchasing a vehicle with an unrepaired defect is one of the risks of engaging in a private-party transaction. But what if the woman had bought a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle from a dealership instead? The faulty airbags would have been replaced prior to the sale in those circumstances, right? Not necessarily.

Incredible as it sounds, the federal government allows car dealers to sell CPOs that are the subject of an open recall without making the repairs first. The policy puts the lives of innocent motorists at risk so that dealerships can sell more cars. Neale & Fhima is opposed to such practices. If you purchased a certified used car with an unrepaired defect, or if you believe you were involved in an accident with one of these vehicles, contact us now.

People Expect Certified Used Cars to be Safe

Each auto manufacturer has its own CPO program and incentives. For example, CPOs sold at Ford dealerships in Southern California undergo a 172-point inspection covering:

  • Road testing/performance
  • Exterior components like doors, latches, and lights
  • Interior components like seatbelts and driver controls
  • Vehicle frames
  • Engines
  • Transmissions
  • Fuel and electrical systems
  • Tires, wheels, and brakes.

Vehicles that qualify for certification typically sell for $1,500 to $2,500 more than ordinary used cars. People pay this extra amount because they do not want to drive a used car with recurring mechanical problems or one that is unsafe for any other reason.

Recall Inspections & Repairs

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) learns that a particular model vehicle has a dangerous defect, registered owners are notified and asked to bring the vehicle into a dealership for inspection. In terms of identifying and repairing the defect at issue, a recall inspection is superior to a multi-point CPO inspection, because no guesswork is involved. Mechanics performing the recall inspection already know exactly where to look to see if the defect is present.

Why CPO Vehicles are Sold with Unrepaired Recall Defects

It would seem like common sense for dealerships to conduct recall inspections and make the repairs prior to selling a CPO vehicle. Why would they inspect 172 places on a vehicle looking for problems, but fail to repair defects they already know exist? The answer comes down to money. Some recall repairs cannot be performed right away due to a shortage of replacement parts – and the longer a dealership waits to sell a used car, the less it is worth.

Selling CPO vehicles subject to open recalls takes advantage of the fact that consumers inherently trust that certified used cars are safe. It also undermines the purpose of NHTSA’s vehicle recall system. Yet the federal government is doing nothing about it. In a decision that prompted lawsuits by safety advocates, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently determined that dealerships can advertise these unrepaired vehicles as CPOs, as long as the existence of the recall is disclosed to the customer.

Assert Your Rights Under California Law

The FTC may be turning a blind eye to what auto dealerships are doing, but we are not. Neale & Fhima represents California car owners and accident victims who have been harmed by defective vehicles. If you would like to know more about our vehicle accident and lemon law services, call (888) 995-0283 or submit the form below.