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Groups Warn TN Could Become Dumping Ground for Dangerous Cars

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Until this year, it was illegal in Tennessee for car dealers to sell a vehicle that was under an active safety recall. (Jaxport/Flickr)
Until this year, it was illegal in Tennessee for car dealers to sell a vehicle that was under an active safety recall. (Jaxport/Flickr)
January 22, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There's one more reason to read the fine print when buying your next car in Tennessee.

A new law in the Volunteer State allows used car dealers to sell vehicles that are under a safety recall, as long as the buyer signs a disclosure form.

The Motor Vehicle Recall and Disclosure Act is the first and only one of its kind in the country – after similar bills failed in four other states.

Andy Spears, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, is concerned about the potential impact on consumers.

"Dealers are incentivized to send their cars they know are dangerous to Tennessee, because if you're making a car deal and you can convince someone to sign this form, and there's no requirement that this has to be done at any time in the process,” Spears states. “After you've already agreed to everything and you've worked out the financing – and then, they hand you a form and say, 'Yes, sign this form' – and most people don't read those documents."

Spears says his isn't the only group concerned that the state will become a dumping ground for dealers in other states to send cars they're unable to sell.

He cites the Takata airbag recall as one example of serious potential problems. It affects more than 1 million cars.

But the Tennessee Automotive Association supports the new law, and points out it does require dealers to notify consumers about recalls.

While many people may opt not to sign such paperwork and buy a car they know is under recall, Spears says some may have no other choice.

"You're on the lot with a car dealer, and maybe you can walk away from the deal if you have resources,” he points out. “But if you need a car to get to work and you don't have a whole lot of money, and someone is willing to sell you this car, maybe you'll sign the form because your options are limited. Your ability to travel from dealer to dealer is limited.

“So definitely, lower-income consumers are the most likely to be punished by this law."

Supporters of the law say dealers should still be able to sell cars that otherwise will work properly after undergoing the recall repairs.

Spears says anyone considering a used car purchase should also run the vehicle's VIN number through the database safercar.gov.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN