Report: Over a quarter of all CarMax cars have open recalls

October 3, 2017

More than one in four vehicles for sale at used car titan CarMax's megastores could have outstanding recalls. That’s according to a new report from the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) Foundation.

The data includes a survey of nearly 1,700 CarMax-advertised vehicles in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Of those 1,700 vehicles, 27 percent were found to have open, unaddressed recalls.

In a conference call with reporters, Dierdre Cummings, consumer program director for MASSPIRG Education Fund, said that the recalls include the high-profile Takata airbag recall and the GM ignition switches, before adding that, “No one should have to gamble with their safety.”

The numbers in the report show a strong upward trend, with the percentage of vehicles on CarMax lots nearly doubling in just two years. However, the total number of cars with recalls has also expanded greatly in the past two years, thanks to the aforementioned Takata and GM ignition recalls, which each account for millions of vehicles.

For its part, CarMax readily admits that some of its cars have unrepaired recalls, and points out that it simply isn’t authorized to perform the recalls repairs itself.

“Some of our cars may have unrepaired safety recalls on them,” CarMax states on its website. “There are several reasons for this, but at the core is the fact that the current recall system is based on the manufacturer’s relationship with its dealers and registered vehicle owners, and not with independent dealers. Among other things, this means that manufacturers have not authorized CarMax to complete safety recall repairs and close out unrepaired safety recalls.”

While technically correct, there is nothing in the wording that prohibits CarMax from having authorized dealerships perform the repairs at no cost to CarMax.

CarMax also states that it “notifies customers prior to purchasing” that they should have all recalls fixed, while the CARS Foundation claims buyers are notified of outstanding recalls only after purchasing the vehicle. Further, CARS points to examples of several consumers purchasing vehicles with no notification whatsoever, including CarMax-provided AutoCheck reports that don’t list any recall information.

There is currently a lawsuit pending between the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation and the FTC over the latter’s decision regarding the usability of the word “safe” in regard to vehicles with pending recalls.

As the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax figures to be a central element in the fight as it progresses.

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