By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has found cars under recall, sometimes with serious safety issues, are for sale on Colorado used car lots.

A bill before Congress would require them to be fixed before sold, but CBS4’s Rick Sallinger found out it’s all legal now so long as the recall is disclosed.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

With a hidden camera a CBS producer visited several used car lots acting as a Customer. At Stevinson Toyota East the salesman showed a 2015 Nissan Altima saying it passed its safety tests, but using a federal government website, CBS4 found it had a recall not yet fixed.

The salesman then told the CBS4 producer, “It’s not a life-threatening, that’s why we are selling it, if it’s a life-threatening one or a serious one we can’t sell this car.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

In that case the unfixed recall was a safety risk that the passenger airbag might not deploy in a crash.

At another lot, AutoMart USA on Havana in Aurora the producer asked, “Do you know about any recalls?”

The salesman replied, “We don’t actually put any cars on the lot that have recalls. My owner is very adamant about fixing any vehicle before it goes on to the lot.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

But a quick check of the vehicle identification or VIN number revealed that one had three open recalls, including airbags.

“Side curtains may not function as intended in the event of a crash increasing the risk of injury”. No remedy is available.

The manager later assured CBS4 they disclose all recalls. He said the customers are shown a Carfax which should display any recall issues.

Lynn Granger, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue, says state law is clear.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Lynn Granger, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews Lynn Granger, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue (credit: CBS)

“Regulations require at the time of sale they are required to notify the consumer in writing,” she said.

At Tynan’s Volkswagen/Nissan in Aurora CBS4 found a 2009 Cadillac Escalade on the lot. When asked about the very common Takata airbags under recall, the salesman told the undercover CBS4 producer, “We don’t really carry Takatas. We have like 200 cars in an off lot that are all Takatas that we are not selling.”

CBS4 checked and the government website that shows that Escalade has an unfixed Takata airbag that could explode under certain circumstances.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

None of the dealers CBS4 visited agreed to discuss sales of cars under recall on camera, but Tim Jackson of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association did.

“Should recalled cars be on the lot for sale?” Sallinger asked.

“Recalled cars are on the streets, in driveways, in dealership lots,” Jackson replied.

He explained obtaining the parts to fix the issue is often a problem. He said the dealers should disclose the recall involved in a particular car before the car is sold.

One dealer is now going so far as to run commercials promising it does not sell cars under recall.

Additional Resources

To check if a specific car has a recall simply go to vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin and enter the VIN number of the auto.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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