Saying that advertisements by CarMax, the nation’s largest used-car retailer, are deceptive, a coalition of 11 consumer groups has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. The groups say CarMax does not fix vehicles that have been recalled before it sells them, even though the retailer’s ads promise that the vehicles have undergone a rigorous quality inspection.

“It is inherently deceptive for an auto dealer to represent that its vehicles have passed a rigorous inspection, while failing to take even the most basic step of checking the vehicle’s safety recall status,” said the petition filed Monday by multiple consumer groups.

Those groups include the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety; Consumers Union; Consumer Federation of America; Center for Auto Safety; National Consumer Law Center and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“Consumers may think they’re buying a safe used car, but if CarMax isn’t making sure that recalled cars are fixed, consumers are being misled,” Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, wrote in an email. “That’s a problem, and one we hope the F.T.C. and CarMax can rectify.”

According to Christopher Jensen of the New York Times, the action comes amid increased focus and dismay on the part of consumer advocates and legislators over the adequacy of the recall process intended to protect motorists. The issue was magnified by the disclosure that General Motors delayed by more than a decade its recall of millions of cars in which a defective ignition switch could result in the engine inadvertently shutting off, in turn cutting the power assist to the steering and brakes and preventing the air bags from deploying in a crash.

The CarMax petition being sent to the Federal Trade Commission has the support of Senator Charles Schumer of New York. 

"It's bad enough that used car dealers are not required by law to fix a safety recall problem prior to selling the recalled vehicle to a consumer," Schumer said in a letter supporting the FTC petition.  "Compounding the safety risks with misleading and deceptive advertising and sales practices only further endangers the safety of used-car customers and everyone who shares the roads."

CarMax sold approximately 527,000 vehicles in the 12-month period ending Feb. 28.  It is unknown how many of those vehicles had active recalls that were left unattended.

Should the FTC stop CarMax and other used-car dealers from selling used vehicles without fixing recalls?  Tell us what you think.