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Auction buyers still in the dark as GSA responds about recalled car sales by Joce Sterman, Alex Brauer
Accountability

WATCH  | As the GSA answers lawmakers' questions about its sale of recalled cars, auction buyers remain in the dark about potential problems with their purchases.

GSA writes back to House lawmakers

House lawmakers have finally received some information from the General Services Administration regarding questions about its sale of cars with open recalls to the public. But as potential customers hit up auctions, browsing Uncle Sam's hand-me-downs, they're still not getting specific information about problems despite a Circa investigation months ago


Circa talked with a Maryland couple shopping GSA auction cars for their grandson, "We’re just hoping to pick something up and put it in the driveway," they explained.  But we had a surprise: some of the cars had open recalls.

Lawmakers say GSA should stop selling recalls

Back in October, a group of lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives asked the GSA to stop selling cars with open recalls. The House Oversight Committee also launched an investigation.  But nothing's changed. So, buyers could still drive away cars with a problem and have no idea. 

"That means I’ll have to do extra leg work before I actually put him behind the wheel,” the woman shopping for her grandson said. 

Ave Kaplan is planning on extra work. The DC mom-to-be of twins said you know what you're getting into when you shop for cars at government auctions, but we had to tell her the mini-van she was considering had a recall that could cause a fire.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky doesn’t think any buyer should have to do the work to find out if there are dangerous recalls in cars being auctioned off by the feds. “Where there is the possibility of fixing it, it should be fixed. Period. End of story,” Schakowsky said.

The GSA recently responded to the letter Schakowsky and other House lawmakers sent, asking the agency to make repairs to recalls. The letter makes few specific promises but does say the GSA will explore, consider, analyze, assess and look into ways to improve its systems.

The GSA in its letter says it will look at launching a new mobile fleet application to handle recall notifications that impact federal workers driving fleet cars. It also says it will analyze how to best identify cars for sale to the public that have open recalls, and is "exploring the feasibility of repairing vehicles with actionable safety recalls before sale."

The agency says it is also assessing how it can provide more conspicuous indicators about the cars with open recalls listed for sale on the GSA's internet auction website.

"GSA shares your concerns about providing full, accurate, and transparent information about vehicle recalls to potential purchasers."

Lisa Austin, GSA Assoc. Administrator

Rep. Schakowsky wants more than just exploration or analyzation. She says she'll push for a hearing and legislation, "It’s just really unacceptable. Our roads are less safe because of a government agency. That’s a huge problem. And it’s fixable."

Schakowsky is also calling out the GSA's claim that 98% of the vehicles it sold this year didn’t have open, actionable recalls.  A company called AutoAp has previously helped Circa crunch the number of recalled cars being sold by the GSA. It consistently found much higher rates. 

“They want to claim it was an unusual month and there were unusual circumstances," Schakowsky said. "I question how you go from two-percent to an odd month that has 20%, so clearly the GSA is not doing what it needs to do.”

GSA silent on repeated interview requests

Once again, Circa asked the GSA for specifics and an opportunity to do an on-camera interview. The agency supplied the letter it sent to lawmakers but didn't say a word about our request. Auction buyers in Pennsylvania told us they were glad we were giving them the scoop. "We’ll definitely do more legwork now. Thank you for the information," one woman said.