Arguably, nothing in the car industry has ever affected as many automobile owners or dealerships in a negative way than defective Takata airbags. It isn’t just Toyota who is feeling the sting of the Takata airbag debacle, but used cars across America and around the world. The biggest problem is not only that there are limited parts to fix the cars if they are fixable. In some instances, fixing them is not even something that car repair specialists are capable of doing yet.
When you walk into a car dealership to buy a used Sportage Kia, you generally assume that the car you are purchasing has been checked over and is completely safe to drive. But that may not be the case when it comes to Takata airbags. Many defective used cars are flooding lots without any warning at all.
Toyota has recalled as many as six million cars around the world due to the defective nature of the Takata airbags installed in some of their vehicles. This may only be the beginning, as many analysts believe that the number of cars with the defective airbags may be something closer to 23 million by the time all the airbags are discovered.
The harmful nature of the defect was made even clearer just last month, when another victim in California died due to its faulty deflator. That brings the total to eleven known victims who have died because of these airbags, although it’s likely that many other deaths have occurred but were never classified properly.
By law, used car dealers can sell used cars that have open safety recalls. They are not legally required to inform the consumer that there is a recall in place, or to warn the car buyers about the potential hazards that come with the car’s defect. This may be one of the reasons that car dealerships have an unsavory reputation for being less than honest with car purchasers. One dealership, however, is suing to stop the sale of cars with open recalls, and insisting that buyers be warned of what they are purchasing.
Earl Stewart was first recognized in the car dealership industry because he displayed tags on defective used cars that he sold, with warning labels about the Takata airbags. This was something that had never been done in the industry before. Stewart was more concerned about the safety of the people he was selling cars to, and about the reputation of his dealership, than about sheer volume of sales.
Stewart insisted that any car on the recall list for Takata airbags be labeled as such. He also maintained that if they were going to be sold on his sales floor, he would be open and honest about the recall and the harm that the inflators posed to those who drove the cars. Soon after, Stewart realized that adding warning labels to cars was not enough, and decided that he would no longer sell any used car that had an open recall on it. Not wanting to put his customers in jeopardy, he took them off the floor entirely.
One small move by an independently owned car dealership may be the catalyst for car recall changes nationwide. After calling attention to the fact that dealerships could legally sell defective cars without any warning, Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, decided that it was time to address what was going on in the used car business.
He questioned the safety issues posed by not having legislation in place to warn people of recalls that may be attached to cars on dealership floors. Believing that not warning a buyer is tantamount to deception, he proposed legislation that, if a car has an open recall, a dealership has a minimum obligation to let the buyer know.
Industry leaders are not happy about the proposition of legislation related to recalls and used automobiles. They insist that it will bring down the trade-in value for those who have cars with defective airbags and won’t do anything to expedite the cars being repaired. In essence, all it will do is flood the used car industry with cars that will lose their value and leave both dealerships and consumers with no recourse.
Wanting a quicker resolution than to go through legislative channels, Stewart has decided to file suit against fellow dealerships who fail to provide safety warnings. Seeking damages for loss of business, he hopes that he will force other dealerships to put the health and safety of their customers over their car sale’s bottom line.