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Mixed messages from government on auto recalls, vehicle auctions

Federal auto-safety regulators on Wednesday launched an investigation into the safety of brakes on certain Ford pickups – but when it comes to the government’s own fleet of vehicles, not only do repairs go unfixed but the General Services Administration routinely auctions off cars with open recalls to the public.

Each year, up to 40,000 vehicles that have been cycled out of commission by various government agencies are auctioned off by the GSA. The GSA Fleet, a division of the GSA, leases non-tactical vehicles to other federal agencies. When the vehicles are “retired from service” they are offered to the public by auction.

A recent Circa news investigation discovered vehicles that were on the auction block had open recalls – some with “disturbing and potentially dangerous defects.”

Among the more common problems were vehicles with steering problems and airbag flaws that, if deployed, could shoot metal fragments at the driver. Other cars had engine problems that could result in the vehicle stalling on the road.

Clarence Ditlow, director at the non-profit auto safety group, Center of Auto Safety, told the Circa news site said he was “shocked” to hear that potentially dangerous cars were being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

“I’m shocked, absolutely shocked,” he said. “These are government cars. They should have been fixed before they even went to auctions to be sold.”

In August, the GSA had 2,037 cars for sale. Of those, 427 had open recalls.

When contacted, a GSA spokesperson told FoxNews.com that “GSA is in full compliance with the laws and regulations regarding auto auctions.”

“The agency notifies all auction bidders and successful buyers that there may be outstanding recalls on the sale vehicle, and to contact either their local dealership or use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website to check the vehicle’s recall status.”

But Ditlow said the GSA could have fixed the cars for free before selling them. He also noted the contradiction between the GSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is tasked with issuing federal recall notices and educating drivers about the risks recalls pose.

“Here they’re doing themselves what they say others shouldn’t do,” Ditlow said. “That’s just hypocrisy.”

 

 

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