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Must auto dealers fix vehicle recall issues before selling?

So, you go into a Manhattan auto dealership after performing an admirable amount of pre-arrival due diligence. You spot the car you want, do the requisite haggling with the sales person and execute a purchase agreement. Happily, you exit the lot, enthralled with all your new vehicle's options.

You know it's got 10 air bags. You know you're equipped with parking-assist technology and a plethora of accident-avoidance tools.

But you don't know that your fresh-smelling and just-off-the-premises ride is subject to an open recall, having been identified by safety regulators as a vehicle having a potentially fatal safety defect that needs immediate fixing.

Was that sales guy supposed to tell you that?

More importantly, shouldn't that defect have been remedied before you drove off the lot?

Answer to the first question (which probably surprises you): Sales reps have no legal duty to tell customers that a vehicle is under recall.

As to that second query, a quick and definitive answer suffices: Yes.

In a recent media story addressing serious safety issues and vehicle recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration straightforwardly notes that, "Selling a new vehicle that is under recall but has not been remedied is a violation of the law and a risk to public safety."

Given how clear cut that is, why did a recent undercover media investigation of new car dealers in New York and New Jersey readily reveal multiple instances of unfixed vehicles being sold to unsuspecting consumers?

One national legislator calls the practice "just wrong" and says that the NHTSA is not doing enough to enforce federal law and punish violators.

Until it becomes apparent that all new cars being driven off lots are literally good to go, a would-be buyer might reasonably want to take steps to ensure that a vehicle he or she likes is not under recall. A car's VIN number can be checked on an NHTSA database or manufacturer's website.

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