Action 9 investigates used cars for sale with airbags that may not work

Action 9 investigates used cars for sale with airbags that may not work

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Watch out for used cars for sale in the Charlotte area with airbags that may not work.

Legally, car dealers don't have to warn you about it. In an Action 9 investigation, Jason Stoogenke put it to the test to see if any salespeople would mention the airbags on their own.

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You've heard about Takata airbags, but recently, Stoogenke told you about another kind of airbag, ZF.

ZF airbags are blamed for eight deaths.

The concern is the crash itself can create unwanted electrical signals, which may prevent the airbags from deploying.

The federal safety agency, NHTSA, is investigating 12.3 million vehicles that have ZF airbags.

Plus, two car companies issued recalls: Fiat Chrysler and Kia Hyundai.

Those vehicles include:

  • 2010 - 2013 Kia Forte
  • 2011 - 2013 Kia Optima
  • 2011 - 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid
  • 2011 - 2013 Kia Sedona
  • 2011 - 2013 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2011 - 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
  • 2010 Chrysler Sebring
  • 2011 - 2014 Chrysler 200
  • 2010 - 2012 Dodge Caliber
  • 2010 - 2014 Dodge Avenger
  • 2010 - 2014 Jeep Patriot
  • 2010 - 2014 Jeep Compass
  • 2012 - 2013 Lancia Flavia

Since the ZF airbag issue is newer than the Takata one, Stoogenke is worried more consumers may not be familiar with that one. He wanted to see if the cars are being sold locally, and, if they are, how forthcoming salespeople are about the ZF airbag recalls.

First, he went on Autotrader.  It's one of Channel 9's sister companies. It lists used cars for sale, but doesn't actually sell them.

Second, he looked up all the years, makes and models that are under recall for ZF airbags within 10 miles of Channel 9's ZIP code.  Stoogenke found 28 vehicles.

Third, he ran the Carfax report on each one, which tells you if there are any open recalls.  He took note of every vehicle that had an open recall specifically for ZF airbags.

Fourth, he sent producers to see each car in person.

They found, yes, the cars are for sale. They also found none of the salespeople brought up the ZF airbag recalls on their own.

When the producers asked about the recalls, all of the salespeople did offer to find out. Most provided Carfax reports.

Legally, the dealers didn't do anything wrong.  They're allowed to sell cars under recall. They can't lie about a recall, but they don't have to volunteer information.

The head of the Carolinas Independent Automobile Dealers Association, John Brown, thinks they should anyway, and he works in the industry.

"We believe that the best practice of the independent dealer would be to tell everything you know about that car," he told Stoogenke.  "Even if you're not asked."  "What would you want your mother to know?  Well, wouldn't you want your mother to know that there's an outstanding recall if you're selling that car to your mother?" he added.

Congress had a bill that would require dealers to fix safety recalls before selling or leasing a used car.  That bill died, but Brown says it's supposed to come back up this fall.

Carrie Daniels had one of the cars under recall for the ZF airbag issue, a 2012 Hyundai Sonata.

She traded it in before the news broke that ZF airbags could fail. Fortunately, she was never in a crash, so she doesn't know if the airbags would have worked.

"It's concerning as a parent. You don't want to hear that, especially now that my daughter's driving," she told Stoogenke. "Safety first, always. Even if I wasn't a parent, obviously that's a big issue. But, as a parent, that compounds it a billion, trillion percent. That's our biggest concern, as a parent, to protect our children."

Bottom line:

  • Don't expect car salespeople to volunteer the information.  It's up to you to be your own advocate if you're buying a used car:
  • Go to NHTSA's website, type in the Vehicle Identification Number, and see if that car is under recall.
  • You should also ask the salesperson for a Carfax or Auto Check report.
  • If the salesperson says the problem's been fixed, insist on seeing invoices or receipts proving that.