SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A controversial bill affecting the safety of used cars took some dramatic twists and turns Tuesday at the state Capitol...
One lawmaker got into a heated exchange with California’s car dealers over a bill named after a family whose loved ones died in a crash near San Diego four years ago.
The crash ultimately led to a nationwide safety recall involving the Lexus vehicle in the accident.
“It’s just having the will to do this to protect the consumer,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who authored Senate Bill 686.
The bill would prohibit car dealers from selling, renting, leasing or loaning used cars under a government safety recall, unless the vehicles had been fixed.
“It wrongly targets car dealers for a rental car problem,” said Cliff Costa, who testified Tuesday for the California New Car Dealers Association.
Auto dealers said they were unfairly targeted because rental car companies were excluded in the bill from having to fix safety defects on vehicles they rent.
That prompted a heated exchange with Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.
“You sell them?” Dickinson asked Costa. “You sell them to people? Is that what you do, you sell a car that you know may be unsafe to someone?”
Costa tried to respond by saying, “But the part isn’t available to fix, so is it your suggestion …”
But Dickinson interrupted him and proclaimed, “No wait. Answer the question.”
Tempers also flared over emotional testimony from Fe Lastrella, of Vallejo. Her son, daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law were killed in a fiery crash involving a loaner car from a dealership – a vehicle with a stuck accelerator.
Chris Lastrella called 911 just before he died, saying, “We’re going 120 (miles per hour). Mission Gorge. We’re in trouble. We can’t, we can’t, there’s no brakes.”
Lastrella told the 911 operator, “We’re approaching the intersection. Hold on. Pray, pray. Oh shoot, there’s oh, oh, ooooh."
The stunned dispatcher could only say, “hello?” but there was no response.
“We lost our beloved children and grandchild,” Fe Lastrella told lawmakers Tuesday.
But the testimony may have backfired with some lawmakers, because the crash involved a vehicle that wasn’t on the government’s safety recall list at the time of the accident.
“That accident wouldn’t have even been prevented by this bill,” said Brian Jones, a Republican assemblyman from Santee. “I find that very disingenuous.”
Democrats also were unhappy that rental car companies were not included in the bill.
Only sales but not rentals would apply under the bill.
It proved to be a fatal flaw that forced Jackson to pull the bill without a vote.
In response, Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety told KCRA 3, “Legislators didn’t have the courage to stand up to the auto dealers.”
Supporters of the safety recall bill told KCRA 3 they’ll be back again in January with a new version of the bill that will allow auto dealers to check a federal database to see if a vehicle is subject to a recall.
Private sellers also were excluded from the bill, although they make up 64 percent of the used car market, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.