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Area dealer sold recalled cars at wholesale auction

Cars with faulty airbag sold at online auction
Posted: 6:35 PM, Nov 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-02 10:22:44-04

Barely a week after we reported on a lawsuit filed by an area dealership, accusing a competitor of selling used cars with faulty airbags, WPTV discovered the dealer that made the complaint, sold used cars with defective airbags at an online car auction.

Earl Stewart of Stewart Toyota told the media last week, he no longer sold used cars with recalled Takata airbags to his customers, and hoped others would follow his lead.

But Contact 5 found Stewart sold 4 used cars with recalled Takata airbags at an online dealer auction this past Sunday.

Now he is telling Contact 5 investigator Sam Smink he should have clarified his statement.

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“When I said sell, I was referring to retail,” Stewart said when we asked him about the sale of the cars at Manheim, an auto auction site for registered car dealers.

Stewart said he won’t sell used cars with unfixed airbag recalls on his lots, but he will sell them wholesale, meaning to other registered dealers.

“If I were to take the action of keeping all the cars that had recalls, passenger side and driver side, I would be accumulating hundreds and hundreds of cars,” said Stewart.

Stewart said he only sold cars at auction with faulty airbags on the passenger side. He added that those recalled airbags on the driver’s side are in storage.

“The only risk on the passenger side is inconvenience. The inconvenience of disabling the airbag or just not having anyone ride in the passenger seat.” Stewart said.

Contact 5 investigator Sam Smink asked Stewart if he felt that decision was hypocritical. Stewart said in response, "Well I'm the only car dealer that's doing that. I don't know of any other in the United States that has taken the position I did."

In response to WPTV's story Stewart posted a comment on Facebook that reads in part: "I'm "wholesaling" cars with the Takata airbag recalls on the PASSENGER side only. This allows the retail purchaser two options... (1) Don't carry a passenger in the front passenger seat. (2) deactivate the front right-hand passenger seat airbag. I am the only car dealer in the USA that, not only retails no cars with Takata airbag recalls, but also does not wholesale any cars with driver-side airbag recalls."

Federal investigators blame at least 11 deaths nationwide on defective Takata airbags.

Find out if your car has an open recall.