California used car buyers beware: A new law will hit this summer that threatens to put car buyers at risk when purchasing a used vehicle. While this new law was designed to protect Californians, it does the exact opposite by mandating that auto dealers provide a NMVTIS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information System) report to consumers when buying a used vehicle.
While this sounds like a great idea, it's frightening and the harm it can cause to the Hispanic community is alarming.
First, you must know a little bit about NMVTIS to understand the severity of the problem. NMVTIS is a U.S. government report administered by the Justice Department to help keep track of car titles. This report was never designed to keep a detailed track record of a vehicle's history. In fact, it includes a disclaimer that acknowledges that "it does not contain detailed information regarding a vehicle's repair history."
NMVTIS fails to track total salvage, significant repair or maintenance work, and air bag deployment or recalls, among other important information. As a result, a buyer who desperately needs an affordable used car could end up buying one that isn't safe, yet will unknowingly think the NMVTIS report contains the vehicle's total history. Who will pay the price? Consumers will, when they buy cars that aren't as safe as they think they are.
Second, California could become a dumping ground for states that don't report to NMVTIS. Not all
Third, consumers will have no recourse for being sold potentially unsafe cars. The new law creates a system where no one is accountable. If a consumer is sold a car with unreported damages, the government-run NMVTIS holds no liability, even if it fails to describe all past damages. But what is even worse is that dealers don't have liability either since the law requires them to only provide NMVTIS.
In other words, the new law gives unscrupulous car dealers protection when they knowingly sell a bad car. Who will pay the price? Consumers, as many will unknowingly believe the NMVTIS report contains the vehicle's entire history, including previous air bag deployment and vehicle repairs. When their car breaks down, they will have little recourse.
The California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce knows that better vehicle history reports already exist; these reports are established, readily available and far more comprehensive -- and, no, it's not NMVTIS.
A simple change in the law is necessary to ensure consumer safety and confidence when purchasing a used car.
Senate Bill 990 will do just that. This bill, which is known as the Used Car Safety Act of 2012 and was authored by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, will ensure that consumer protection is a top priority. It will provide consumers with more information about a used car's vehicle history by allowing dealers to offer NMVTIS and/or a "commercial data provider" or "commercially available vehicle history report" that receives branded title data from all 51 jurisdictions in the U.S.
In other words, SB 990 will ensure that consumers have access to the essential information about detailed vehicle histories before purchasing a car -- which is something that the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce can stand behind to protect hardworking Hispanic families in California.
Julian Canete is president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.