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Call Kurtis Investigates: Recalled Cars For Sale

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- Does your car have an open recall?

Open, unfixed safety recalls may affect millions of cars for sale on used dealership parking lots across the country -- making even driving them off the lot potentially unsafe, a CBS13 Call Kurtis investigation has learned.

If you're like Bob Knotts, you have no idea. And the dealer who sells you a car doesn't have to tell you about it.

"It was just black, full of smoke," Knotts said, remembering his van bursting into flames in his driveway.

Now just a charred shell -- it turns out the van had been recalled over a wiring defect that could cause a fire.

But the dealer never told him, he said.

"The whole thing was a complete loss for me."

CBS13 took its hidden cameras to used dealership lots in Sacramento to find out how commonplace these open-recall cars really are.

A CBS13 producer easily found a dozen recalled cars at the three used car lots randomly checked in Sacramento.

We found a Honda CR-V with a potentially dangerous airbag, a Toyota 4Runner with an accelerator pedal that could get stuck, and a Chevrolet Cobalt with fuel part prone to leak -- a potential fire hazard.

But the salesman at Lions Auto Sales tells CBS13's undercover producer not to worry.

"Any recall, before we bring the car here, we have to get it taken care of," he said.

But that's not true -- we found five vehicles on his lot had not been fixed.

"There's only one reason the car is under a safety recall and that's because it's unsafe," said Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

Shahan wants a new law, because nothing requires a dealer to fix a recall before a car is sold, or even tell buyers about it.

"They could be killed, or they could kill someone else, or their passengers could die or be injured," she said.

A Carfax study found more than 2.7 million used cars listed for sale online in 2011 had at least one unfixed safety recall.

"You don't have to worry about a recall, none of that stuff," the salesman at Lions Auto Sales told a CBS13 producer. "Everything's already been taken care of."

But why would a salesman tell us the recalls on the used cars he's selling have been fixed, when we know they weren't?

Consumer investigative reporter Kurtis Ming asked him.

"Did you know this car right here is potentially dangerous?" Ming said.
"It's got a couple recalls on it."

The salesman quickly gets the owner, Shadi, who tells us he was unaware of the recalls.

"Earlier today [the salesman] assured us that there were no recalls on the car and that it would have been fixed," Ming said.

"No, we don't know about if it's fixed," the owner said.

"He didn't know about it? So he probably shouldn't be telling people that," Ming said.

"Yeah -- no, we don't know about it," Shadi said.

Shadi told CBS13 he didn't know how to check for recalls, but was told it's easy to check online, or by calling the manufacturer.

"You just didn't know how to do this before," Ming said.

"Exactly," Shadi said.

Shadi pledged to have his used cars fixed before they leave his lot -- after all, manufacturers must do it for free anyway.

"If it has a recall, I will do it, because this is nothing going to cost me money," he said.

But the owners of Industry Motors, where we found two used cars for sale with open recalls, are concerned the time it takes to get a recalled car fixed could cost them a sale.

"If it's required by law, of course we will do it," the owner told Ming.

The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 20,000 dealerships nationwide, has taken a stance saying it "Encourages used vehicle dealers to repair the open-recall before selling the vehicle to a customer and at a minimum disclose it.

But another organization that represents 16,000 dealers, the National Automobile Dealers Association, thinks used car buyers should have to get recalls fixed -- not the dealers.

Ming asked Shahan why dealers should have to have the recalls fixed.

"Is it enough for dealers to just find out about it, and tell people about it prior to the sale?" he said.

"No, it isn't," she said, because the public may not realize the seriousness of a recall and never get it fixed.

As she pushes for state and federal laws putting the burden on the dealer, Knotts warns it may be best for buyers to check for recalls themselves.

"What happened to me -- it could have happened to someone else," he said.

Find Your Vehicle

Acura 1-800-382-2238 Press 4
Audi 1-800-822-2834
BMW 1-800-831-1117
Buick 1-800-521-7300
Cadillac 1-800-458-8006
Chevrolet 1-800-222-1020
Chrysler 1-800-247-9753
Dodge 1-800-423-6343
Ford 1-800-392-3673
GMC 1-800-462-8782 Press 3
Honda 1-800-999-1009
Hummer 1-800-732-5493
Hyundai 1-800-633-5151
Infiniti (sign up for recall alerts) 1-800-662-6200 Press 3
Jaguar 1-800-452-4827
Jeep 1-877-426-5337
Kia 1-800-333-4542
Land Rover 1-800-346-3493
Lexus (requires free website membership) 1-800-255-3987 Press 2
Lincoln 1-800-521-4140
Mazda 1-800-222-5500 Press 4
Mercedes 1-800-367-6372
Mercury 1-800-392-3673
Mitsubishi 1-800-222-0037
Nissan (sign up for recall alerts) 1-800-647-7261 Press 2
Oldsmobile 1-800-442-6537
Pontiac 1-800-762-2737
Porche 1-800-767-7243
Scion 1-866-707-2466 Press 2
Subaru 1-800-782-2783
Toyota 1-800-331-4331 Press 2
Volkswagen 1-800-822-8987
Volvo 1-800-458-1552


Can't find your car make? You can check many cars' VINs for free at or by calling a dealership or any manufacturer's 1-800 number listed on their website.

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