Federal agency under fire for selling recalled cars

Federal agency under fire for selling recalled cars
© Greg Nash

The General Services Administration (GSA) is in the congressional hot seat following a new report that found the federal agency has been selling recalled vehicles to the public.

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations, has vowed to get answers from the GSA about its auction practices and is calling for greater government accountability, according to the digital news site Circa.

A report released this week by Circa found that more than 20 percent of the vehicles auctioned off by the GSA had open recalls.

In August, 427 of the 2,037 cars for sale by the GSA had safety defects needing repairs, with recalls related to engine problems, exploding airbags and steering issues.

Although the practice appears to be legal, Meadows argues that the federal government should be held to a higher standard, especially as other federal agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) push for greater auto safety and quicker recall rates.

“It's too early to tell who's going to be held accountable but certainly someone should be held accountable,” Meadows told Circa. “And we’re not going to stop until we get satisfaction that the problem has been resolved.”

Meadows also raised concerns about whether federal employees are driving around in vehicles that need safety repairs.

After leased vehicles are retired from service, the GSA sells them to the general public through an auction. The agency estimates that it puts 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles up for sale every year.

The GSA said in a statement that the vehicles that are sold have been regularly serviced and maintained and emphasized that the agency is in “full compliance with the laws and regulations regarding auto auctions.”

"The agency notifies all auction bidders and successful buyers that there may be outstanding recalls on the sale vehicle, and to contact either their local dealership or use the [NHTSA] website to check the vehicle’s recall status,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Under current law, it's not illegal to sell a used vehicle that has an open recall, but new car dealers are required to repair any open recalls before the vehicle can be sold to the public.

In the Senate, a group of lawmakers has been leading the charge against a proposed consent agreement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that would allow “certified” pre-owned vehicles to be sold with recalls, as long as buyers are warned that the vehicle may be subject to a recall.

Auto safety groups say its unfair to advertise recalled used vehicles as “safe” and argue that disclosure doesn’t always guarantee that customers will get safety defects fixed.

“Congress has long debated whether dealers should be allowed to sell used cars subject to open safety recalls,” said Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar MORE (N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE (Mass.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world MORE (Fla.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (Ill.). “We firmly believe that the law should prohibit such sales, as it currently does for new cars with open safety recalls.”

The lawmakers wrote a letter to the FTC this summer pressing the agency to reconsider its proposal.

“We urge you to work together, and in good faith, to leverage your respective agency’s expertise and redraft the proposed settlements so they ensure that consumers receive meaningful information regarding the safety of their potential used vehicle purchases and that public safety is not compromised,” the senators said.