Contact 6: A "lot" of problems -- hidden camera at car dealerships

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- FOX6's Contact 6 discovered thousands of cars on Wisconsin roads with hidden dangers, and more that were sold before they were fixed -- cars with open safety records, and salesmen who didn't seem to consider this a big deal.

FOX6's Contact 6 took a hidden camera into car dealerships and found some hidden dangers that not even salespeople know about.

Carfax provides vehicle history reports to consumers, and warns that 52,000 cars are for sale in Wisconsin with open recalls and potentially dangerous defects -- defects that drivers think dealers should be taking care of.

"They should, but they don't," one man told Contact 6.

Contact 6 found several recalled vehicles that were not fixed, but were being sold on lots in southeastern Wisconsin. Contact 6 found a 2004 Honda CRV, and by the time a Contact 6 producer made it to the lot at GS Auto, the salesman said the car was sold, and gone.

"I know there was something on it, on the Carfax report.  I don't know if it was taken care of or if we did it or if the customer who bought it is going to get a letter in the mail," the salesman told FOX6's Contact 6.

As it turned out, the issue had not been taken care of and actually had three open recalls -- one for possible problems with the airbag during a crash, one that showed the headlights could randomly go out, and one showing a power window switch could catch fire.

A salesperson told FOX6's Contact 6 it is typical for dealers to have recalled cars on the lot.

Contact 6 found Bargain Town Motors with a 2004 Acura MDX and a 2007 Toyota Prius for sale -- both with open recalls, and a salesman who didn't seem concerned.

"It's not a big deal because, I mean, you take it to the dealer and they fix it for free.  If there's recalls on there and we got time to do it, we'll do it.  If not, we sell them, you know," the salesman told FOX6 News.

As it turned out, the Prius can lose steering control. The Acura has an ignition lock that could cause the car to roll away, even when stopped. But the salesman told FOX6 News it's not dangerous.

At Discover Auto Sales in Racine, a salesman was certain there were no recalls on the 2006 Ford Freestar.

"We have a system. We look them up. There is nothing open on this car," the salesman said.

However there was a potential problem with the third row of seats that could come loose during a crash, and cause injury. The salesman said this is not a safety issue, and that if it were, federal officials would step in.

To prove his point, the salesman volunteered to call the manufacturer on speakerphone to show there were no recalls. However, even after Ford confirmed a safety recall, the salesman still didn't seem to get it. Ford told the salesman all recalls are considered safety issues.

FOX6's Contact 6 got in touch with each dealership for this story, and each said the cars in question were fixed.

Contact 6 says when purchasing a vehicle, it is important to be proactive. Contact 6 advises searching the vehicle's year, make and model on for any open recalls. Or, write down your VIN number and call the manufacturer for recall information. The fix is free, and can usually be done while you wait.