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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Rental Car Recalls: Rental Companies Fight To Rent Defective Vehicles

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Ben Kelly at the Los Angeles Times wrote this week about the threat recalled, but unrepaired, rental cars pose to the public. I've written before about how rental car companies will rent you a recalled vehicle.

The push for legislation stems from tragic death of sisters in 2004. The sisters had rented a Chrysler PT Cruiser from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The PT Cruiser caught fire as the girls were driving down the road. The vehicle had been recalled due to a fire hazard, but Enterprise chose to keep renting the vehicle to unsuspecting customers without having the vehicle repaired. The sisters were the fourth customers to rent that vehicle after it was recalled.

While Enterprise was liable to the girls' parents for negligence and wrongful death damages, Enterprise broke no criminal laws because of loopholes that do not require rental car companies to fix recalled vehicles, some with known defects.

In response, AB753 was filed in the California legislature to require rental car companies to fix recalled vehicles. Not surprisingly, the bill was met with severe resistance by rental car companies. The bill has passed the California Assembly, but awaits action (and further rental car industry lobbying) in the California Senate.

There has been proposed legislation at the federal level as well. Senator Chuck Schumer introduced the "Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2011 to prohibit the rental of recalled and unrepaired vehicles.

In addition to banning rentals of cars and trucks under safety-defect recalls until they are repaired, the bill prohibits sales of rental cars with uncorrected defects. Last year, according to Schumer's office, rental car companies sold 1.4 million cars to auctions, wholesalers and consumers. The bill's provisions would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

The rental car companies continue to lobby against this common sense requirement. The rental companies argue that its rental of unrepaired recall vehicles is "infrequent" and that some defects are not so dangerous they must be fixed immediately.

NHTSA doesn't buy it.

All safety recalls resulting from defects present an unreasonable risk to safety, and we believe it is inappropriate to suggest that some defects are not risky enough to require repair. For the safety of the motoring public, all recalled vehicles should be fixed promptly."

— NHTSA

Carol Houck, mother of the sisters killed in the recalled Enterprise rental car, says it all: "The industry's business model clearly illustrates that profit trumps safety every time."

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(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison