California Auto Recall Bill Tabled Due to Opposition

The author of a bill that would have required used auto dealers to reform the way they sell recalled vehicles was suddenly pulled on Friday, June 12, thanks to overwhelming opposition from rental car companies and consumer groups.

Although the bill had recently passed through the Assembly with a unanimous 76-0 vote, Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D, San Mateo), said he planned to postpone the bill until next year in order to work on creating a consensus among constituents.

"We need to take some additional time to figure out what to do in this environment to protect consumers," Assemblyman Gordon told the L.A. Times in a recent article. "I am going to ask the manufacturers, the dealers, and the consumer groups to all come to the table with me and hammer out something that protects Californians."

The Consumer Automotive Recall Safety Act (AB 287) would have:

  • Required dealers to inform potential buyers / renters of recalled vehicles that corrective repairs had not been done
  • Franchised dealers would have been required to repair recalled used cars of their own brand prior to sale
  • Automakers would have been made to repay dealers for storage costs of recalled vehicles awaiting repair

Daniel Gage — spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers that represents numerous automakers including General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota, and Ford — voiced support for the halt, and promised that automakers would work with Assemblyman Gordon as the bill awaited reintroduction.

"Automakers are pleased and pledge to work with the author during the interim to advance efforts to ensure every recalled vehicle gets fixed," Mr. Gage said of the bill's postponement, as quoted in the L.A. Times. Mr. Gage stated that he hoped to see federal legislation — what he called a "national solution" — that would prescribe laws for repairing recalled vehicles, as opposed to a "patchwork of 50 different state standards."

Currently, federal law makes it illegal for auto dealers to sell new cars that are under safety recalls, but California used auto dealers have no such restrictions. The California New Car Dealers Association is among the bills supporters, stating that AB 287 would result in better consumer safety and protection.

However, because the bill would have protected used auto dealers legally should a consumer have been in an accident that resulted from the defect, some consumer groups were opposed.

"The whole concept of allowing dealers to sell recalled cars is bad news for consumers," said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, to the L.A. Times. "No one else in the industry thought this was a good idea. Ms. Shahan was among consumer advocates who approved of Assemblyman Gordon's decision to pull the bill, stating she wanted to see laws in place that prevented auto dealers from selling unrepaired recalled vehicles.

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