Largest rental car companies agree not to use recalled vehicles
WASHINGTON, Sep 28, 2012 (Menafn - Los Angeles Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The four largest U.S. rental car companies have agreed to park vehicles facing a recall until the defect has been repaired, and lent their support to legislation to make such a policy the law.
The move by Hertz Corp., Avis Budget Group Inc., Enterprise Holdings Inc. and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., which represent 93% of the market, followed a years-long quest by the mother of two victims of a fatal crash and auto safety advocates to keep rental cars with known problems off the road.
"No one obtaining a car from a rental car company should ever have to worry that it's been recalled," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said.
Hertz and Enterprise said they already did not rent or sell recalled cars with unrepaired safety defects. They and the other companies now formally pledged not to do so. They also backed proposed legislation that would place the industry's compliance with recall notices under the oversight of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The agreement was announced Thursday by Boxer and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have been pushing the legislation since last year. Federal law prevents auto dealers from selling such cars but does not cover rental car companies.
Their bill would require companies to stop renting vehicles within 24 hours of receiving a safety recall notice or within 48 hours if the recall involved more than 5,000 vehicles in a company's fleet. The vehicles could not be rented or sold until the safety defect was repaired.
The companies agreed to back the legislation after Boxer and Schumer made some revisions, including allowing the rental of a car if there was a manufacturer-approved temporary step that eliminated the safety risk until parts were available. Companies also would be allowed to sell a damaged recalled vehicle as junk.
The legislative effort was spurred by the deaths of two Santa Cruz sisters -- Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, 24 and 20, respectively -- in a crash in 2004 while returning from visiting their mother in Ojai.
The women were driving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser a month after a recall had been issued for the vehicle. The recall involved a power steering fluid leak that could cause a fire under the hood and the loss of steering. In 2010, an Alameda County Superior Court jury ordered Enterprise to pay 15 million to the Houcks' parents.
The legislation is called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012. Schumer said he hoped the Senate would pass it by the end of the year.
Cally Houck, the mother of the two women, became a leading advocate for the cause. She commended the rental car companies for backing "common-sense legislation that will prevent future tragedies such as my family endured."
"If this bill had been the law, and the rental companies complied, my beautiful, precious daughters would still be alive," she said. "My abiding hope is that it will be enacted, and other families will be spared our devastating loss."
In May, Boxer wrote to the four companies, asking them to voluntarily agree not to sell or rent recalled vehicles while she worked to get legislation enacted.
She promised to make public which companies agreed and which did not.
Hertz said it had had a policy since at least 1989 not to rent or sell cars facing recall until they were repaired. Enterprise also said it had a similar policy. Spokesmen for Avis and Dollar Thrifty did not respond to requests for comment.
Laura Bryant, an Enterprise spokeswoman, said the company initially didn't think that federal oversight was necessary. But the position changed after customers told the company that they would feel safer if there was a federal law.
"At some point you realize if this is what your customers want, then you need to deliver," she said.
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