There has been a lot of pressure put on the car rental market to park any vehicles that are under recall until they are fixed. This is the result of two sisters being killed when a recalled vehicle they hired burst into flames. Now California Senator Barbara Boxer is calling on major car hire firms to vow that they won’t rent out vehicles under recall until they are repaired. Additionally, New York Senator Charles Schumer has joined Boxer in sponsoring legislation to ban companies from selling or renting out cars with safety defects until the problems are fixed.
On Monday, Boxer said that she sent letters to the four major car rental companies in the US, requesting that they voluntarily agree to a basic commitment to protect consumers. The four leading car hire firms include: Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car and WeCar brands; Avis Budget Group, which operates the Avis Rent A Car System, Budget Rent A Car system and Budget Truck Rental brand; The Hertz Corporation, which operates the Hertz Rent-a-Car brand, Hertz Equipment Rental, Hertz On Demand (car sharing) and Advantage Rent-a-Car System; and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, which owns the Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental brands.
The pledge requested in the letter from Boxer says: “Effective immediately, our company is making a permanent commitment to not rent out or sell any vehicles under safety recall until the defect has been remedied.” The senator says Hertz has a policy already that’s consistent with the pledge, and now she wants other rental firms to follow suit. She is giving the companies 30 days to respond to the letter, and then she will announce which ones have agreed to the pledge and which ones choose to continue putting consumers’ lives at risk.
Hertz spokesman Richard Broome says the company has had a policy not to sell or rent out vehicles under recall until repairs are completed since 1989. The group has also reached an agreement with Sacramento advocacy group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) on federal legislation similar to the bill put forward by Boxer and Schumer. They hope the whole industry will follow suit, as they think this in their best interest, as well as the best interest of consumers, he added.
Last year, Boxer and Schumer introduced the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. This followed the 24-year-old and 20-year-old (respectively) sisters renting a Chrysler PT Cruiser in 2004 from Enterprise Rent-A-Car a month after the company was notified of a recall for the car. The recall was for the power steering fluid leaking and possibly igniting under the hood. The young women were killed in a fiery crash due to this recall, and an Alameda County Superior Court ordered Enterprise to pay damages of $15 million to their parents. Their mother has been instrumental in putting pressure on rental companies to adopt safer practices.
CARS has been working to change legislation to prevent future incidents like this. Founder Rosemary Shahan says some firms have argued that they shouldn’t be forced to park recalled cars, as customers who own the same vehicles are allowed to continue driving them. However, she says the situations are different, because car owners can make the decision themselves whether to continue driving a recalled vehicle or not. Rental customers don’t get a choice and aren’t aware that the vehicle is under recall. The advocacy group doesn’t think people should have to worry about being put in an unsafe car.
Enterprise says that it supports legislation to give the government authority over policies for recalled vehicles. However, the group isn’t willing to compromise with consumer advocates to the same extreme that Hertz has. It says the legislation it wants is similar to a version drafted by consumer groups and would ban the selling or renting out of recalled cars. They are simply seeking a more practical and responsible approach that reinforces the practices and policies already in use by car hire firms, ensuring that rentals are safe for customers to drive.
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