House panel tells fed agency to stop selling recalled cars

House panel tells fed agency to stop selling recalled cars
© Haiyun Jiang

Top lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee are calling on the General Services Administration (GSA) to stop selling recalled cars to the public.

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In a letter to GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth, the panel requested a list of all GSA-owned vehicles sold to the public and any disclosure forms given to the buyers; a copy of the agency’s recall and repair protocols; and GSA’s feedback on being required to repair safety defects before auctioning vehicles off to the public.

The push comes on the heels of an investigative report from Circa, which found that more than 20 percent of the vehicles sold by the GSA had safety defects needing repairs, with open recalls related to engine problems, exploding airbags and steering issues.

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 Circa report also suggested that federal employees may be driving around in vehicles that need repairs, and lawmakers asked the agency to verify that it is taking steps to ensure workers are safe while driving GSA vehicles.

“We believe no federal employee should be driving vehicles that are subject to recalls that could place employees or others at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter is signed by Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFormer chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Former chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Utah), ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and subcommittee ranking member Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Swing-state Democrats see trouble in proposed pay hike MORE (D-Va.).

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

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 [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's] website to check the vehicle’s recall status,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

But the lawmakers raised concerns that the warnings were issued in small print or only briefly mentioned at the auction.

“It is unclear whether purchasers of federal vehicles are directly informed of open safety recalls, or instead are directed to other sources to determine whether this information exists,” they said. “However ... it does not appear that federal agencies selling vehicles are currently required to disclose open safety recalls before the sales occur."

A group of House Democrats wrote a separate letter to the GSA on Thursday, arguing that the agency should be held to a higher standard — especially as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s pushes for greater auto safety and quicker recall rates.

"No federal agency should use or sell cars that are unsafe," said Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldNancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Number of Democrats backing Trump impeachment inquiry rises MORE (D-N.C.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.). "The GSA should lead by example by fixing all actionable recalls."