CarMax accused of selling unsafe vehicles

Last Updated Sep 28, 2017 11:33 AM EDT

CarMax, the biggest used car dealer in the U.S., is selling vehicles with unrepaired defects subject to safety recalls, three consumer advocacy groups claim. 

More than one in four vehicles, or about 27 percent of those in eight CarMax dealerships, had defects subject to safety recalls, such as Takata air bags and General Motors ignition switches, according to a report released Thursday by the groups, which include Masspirg, the CARS Foundation and the Center for Auto Safety. 

About 45 vehicles had potentially lethal air-bag inflators made by Takata, the Japanese company behind the largest auto recall in history.  In 2014, GM recalled millions of vehicles for the faulty switches starting 2014. The switches as of last year were linked to 124 deaths and more than 275 injuries.

Some of the defects found in vehicle models sold by CarMax have been "responsible for thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths," according to the statement from the groups, which called for action from state law enforcement officials.

The report is based on surveys of 1,699 vehicles and includes vehicles CarMax advertised for sale in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Results were compared with data about CarMax's sales of unrepaired recalled cars in those states in 2015. The survey was conducted Aug. 31 through Sept. 6.

"For a customer at CarMax, about one out of four cars they look at will contain an unsafe recalled part," said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, the report's co-author, in a press release. "Those are bad odds."

CarMax, in an e-mailed statement, pointed to its "commitment to transparency" and said its employees review the recall information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website with customers before they buy a vehicle. The customers also sign a form that acknowledges getting the NHTSA recall information.

CarMax isn't authorized to complete recall repairs and close out recalls, the company said in the statement. Repairs are ``based on the manufacturer's relationship with its dealers and registered vehicle owners, and not with independent used auto retailers, like CarMax." 

"Our experience shows us customers are in the best position to act on recall information directly with a manufacturer-authorized dealer," the statement said. "We have found that dealers are often more likely to provide timely recall repair to customers rather than to a competitor, like CarMax, so we encourage customers to have recalls repaired at a manufacturer-authorized facility."