State of Colorado resells recalled cars without informing consumers

State changing procedure after Denver7 story

DENVER - A Denver7 investigation revealed the state of Colorado has resold dozens of recalled cars without completing the repairs or notifying the new buyers.

The Denver7 Investigators obtained records of every sale the state of Colorado made through its eBay account, reselling retired cars from the state fleet. The records show the state has sold 316 cars so far in 2015, and information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows 65 of those cars have incomplete recalls showing in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database. Records show several of the recalled vehicles were sold to auto dealers, and that the recalls were issued prior to the dates of sale.

Each of the state’s eBay listings feature several different passages that indicate that every known problem with the vehicle is disclosed. The listings say, “Any known mechanical problems, if applicable, are noted in the listing.” Every listing includes a disclosure that notes, "All identified deficiencies / mechanical problems are included in the listing, nothing is omitted.” And later in each listing, the state’s text reads, “We don’t sell surprises!”

The man in charge of the state program that runs the eBay sales said he was surprised to learn from Denver7 Investigator John Ferrugia that recalled cars had been auctioned without repair.

“As a consumer, if you were going to go out and buying one of these cars, would that concern you?” Ferrugia asked Dennis Dunsmoor, director of Colorado Correctional Industries. “I’m sure it would,” Dunsmoor responded.

Colorado Correctional Industries is a division of the Department of Corrections, which puts inmates to work performing various tasks, including preparing retired state fleet cars for auction on eBay. The program’s director said the deficiencies and mechanical problems specific to each car come directly from the maintenance records from the State Fleet Management department – records that apparently do not include incomplete recalls.

“I would be surprised if the recalls are not being completed,” Dunsmoor said.

State fleet manager Scott Edwards confirmed state fleet cars were resold with incomplete recalls. He also admitted the state was not disclosing details about the recalls to buyers.

“It's as-is, where is, [and] any prospective buyer should do their due diligence to look at the condition of the vehicle,” Edwards said.

That explanation did not sell well with consumers who purchased the cars, who learned their cars had serious recalls that needed to be repaired.

Jordan Dean purchased a 2003 Chevrolet Impala from the state’s auction site. He learned from Denver7 Investigators that his car was recalled in 2014 for an ignition switch flaw found in millions of General Motors vehicles.

The recall reads that overly-heavy key rings can switch off a running car. Dean said he had no idea he needed to get his car fixed after he purchased it.

“It's kind of like putting my life in jeopardy now because none of that information was portrayed to me when I purchased the vehicle. Like it should've been,” Dean said.

Brandon Chambers bought a Jeep Liberty from a CCI eBay auction and said he assumed the vehicle would be well-maintained because it came from the state. He said he was surprised to learn from the Denver7 Investigators that his vehicle is one of millions of Jeeps recalled in 2013 after reports of dozens of deaths from fires. The recall notices say the vehicle’s gas tanks can catch fire if a Jeep is rear-ended.

“What would you say to somebody at the state about this?” Denver7 Investigator John Ferrugia asked. “I would just say, 'Why wasn't this addressed when you guys were using the vehicles? You're putting people at risk,'” Chambers responded.

Other vehicles with incomplete recalls include numerous Dodge trucks with steering problems and Dodge Chargers recalled due to air bag issues. The oldest outstanding recall in the cars sold by the state to consumers was from 2006. Several vehicles had multiple incomplete recalls, according to NHTSA records.

The state fleet manager cited delays between manufacturers and dealerships in providing the parts to fix the recalls, and the large quantity of cars the state has to oversee, as reasons why recalls would not be completed.

The state cited Denver7’s findings for a policy change in its eBay auctions going forward. Edwards said the state would now include documentation of incomplete recalls with information available to perspective buyers who view the auction vehicles at the state’s surplus lot in Denver.

The state also vowed to notify consumers who already purchased vehicles with incomplete recalls.

NHTSA recommends anyone who is considering purchasing a new vehicle check its VIN-specific recall database.

People shopping for used cars often rely on vehicle history reports to check if the vehicle has maintenance issues. The Denver7 Investigators purchased one of the vehicle history reports advertised with each eBay listing for one of the resold vehicles with an incomplete recall, and the report did not include any mention of the recall. Denver7 also purchased a Carfax report for the same vehicle, and that report did mention the need to have the recall addressed.

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