Consumer Safety Groups and Three Federal Employee Unions Call for the end of Government Use and Sale of Unsafe Recalled Cars

For Immediate Release
April 15, 2021
Contact: Jason Levine, [email protected] or 202-328-7700

Consumer Safety Groups and Three Federal Employee Unions Call for the end of Government Use and Sale of Unsafe Recalled Cars

More than one dozen organizations send White House a letter urging end to a practice endangering federal employees and consumers.

Today, the Center for Auto Safety joined three federal employee unions, the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the National Federation of Federal Employees, as well as national and local consumer groups including Public Citizen, the National Safety Council, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Consumer Reports to call on President Biden to direct all departments and agencies to end the unsafe practice of federal employees using unrepaired recalled vehicles and prohibit the public sale of unrepaired recalled federal vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees vehicle recalls for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), takes the position that all recalls are serious and should be repaired as quickly as possible. Importantly, there are no cosmetic recalls. Safety recalls are only undertaken by manufacturers because the vehicle has a safety defect which can impair safe operation or the vehicle does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. Yet for years, other divisions of the Federal Government have ignored DOT guidance, and federal employees across the country have been forced to use dangerous recalled vehicles as part of their job, putting their lives, and the lives of everyone on the road, at risk. Then, those same dangerous unrepaired recalled vehicles have been knowingly sold to consumers.

Unrepaired recalled vehicles have already killed and injured too many. Defective Takata airbags have killed 27 by sending shrapnel into the faces of their victims, instead of protecting them in a crash. Malfunctioning ignition switches disabled steering, brakes, and airbags, resulting in the deaths of at least 174 people and many more injuries, and leading to multiple General Motors (GM) recalls starting in 2014. None of these should be in use by federal employees or sold to the public.

“Right now, at federal government auctions across America, vehicles with unrepaired recalls are available for sale. In California, Maryland, and Georgia, vehicles with unrepaired recalled GM ignition switches are available at auction by the General Services Administration (GSA). In Virginia, Florida, and Texas, the GSA is selling vehicles with unrepaired recalled Takata airbags,” said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. “In Texas, GSA is selling a Ford vehicle with two open recalls – including one which creates a fire risk in a crash. In New Mexico, GSA is selling a vehicle with three unrepaired safety recalls impacting the seatbelts, airbags, steering control, and brakes. It is only luck that has spared federal employees using vehicles like these from tragedy. Now is the time to stop rolling the dice with the lives of public servants and consumers alike.”

Stunningly, there is no specific prohibition on the continued use of unrepaired, dangerous, recalled vehicles by federal personnel. An independent investigation by Spotlight on America found more than 25,000 of these unsafe vehicles being driven every day by federal employees across the government, often without their knowledge. At the end of federal leases, these same unsafe vehicles with unrepaired defects are then offered for sale to consumers, passing the danger onto them and all road users. The GSA acknowledges it sells hundreds of vehicles with unrepaired recalls to the public every year.

“No employer, or seller, should knowingly allow for the use, or sale, of unsafe vehicles. Especially the Federal Government. That is why we are so proud to join with our fellow leaders in the consumer safety community, as well as organizations representing the interests of federal employees, to call on the Administration to put an end to these practices which endanger the lives of tens of thousands of federal employees, and all who share the roadway environment with them” said Levine.

The letter was signed by:

Center for Auto Safety
American Federation of Government Employees
National Treasury Employees Union
National Federation of Federal Employees
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
National Safety Council
National Consumers League
Consumer Federation of America
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
Joan Claybrook, Former NHTSA Administrator
Consumer Watchdog
Public Citizen
National Association of Consumer Advocates
U.S. PIRG
MASS PIRG
Consumer Reports

The full text of the letter can be found here: Letter to President Biden regarding recalled government vehicles.

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The Center for Auto Safety was founded in 1970 and has always been based in Washington, DC. We are a member supported, independent, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy for all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Over the last 51 years, the Center has successfully led the fight for lemon laws in every state, airbags in every vehicle, and recall repairs being made at no cost to the consumer. For 40 years the Center published The Car Book, America’s most comprehensive car buying guide focused on safety, and in that spirit now offers the custom Vehicle Safety Check providing regular safety updates and hard-to-find service alerts on vehicle safety issues. To learn more about the Center, please visit www.AutoSafety.org.