Used cars put their drivers and passengers at the highest risk of injury or death caused by the defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corp., whose inflators may explode upon triggering deployment of the airbag. The largest automotive recall in history is currently in progress for the dangerous airbags. Vehicle manufacturers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that they replace the defective parts.
The most recently reported U.S. fatality was of a 50-year-old woman who died in a 2001 Honda Civic after a September crash in Riverside County, CA. Her Honda Civic had been resold three times at used-car auctions before her son bought it. The death highlighted second, third or even fourth owners who are especially vulnerable to dangerous vehicles because their purchases of vehicles lacked the protections offered to buyers of new cars. Honda has stated that the automaker had mailed 20 recall notices to owners of the Riverside County vehicle since 2008, but the car was never fixed.
Vehicle auctions are the least regulated sellers in the industry. When a dealer who doesn’t want to repair or sell damaged or defective cars will sell them at auction to a dealers who lack such scruples. Trade groups for sellers of used vehicles say they encourage their members to disclose and fix recalled vehicles, but stop short of requiring it. According to the New York Times, “The more lax regulations for used-car safety affect a large swath of the population. Last year, more than 38 million used cars were sold across the country — more than twice as many as were sold new, according to the automotive information site Edmunds.com.”
State and federal consumer protection laws, although they don’t explicitly cover recalled used cars, already effectively prohibits the sale of dangerous vehicles, some safety advocates and lawyers say. “Anytime they conceal a material defect, that’s fraud,” Rosemary Shahan, the president of the nonprofit Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, told the New York Times.