California Senator Barbara Boxer has asked why three of the four major car hire providers in the US have declined to sign a pledge not to rent or sell vehicles under safety recall until they are repaired. She says Hertz is the only rental company that agreed to the pledge, while Enterprise Holdings, Dollar thrifty and Avis Budget haven’t. She also accused the rental operator of seeking loopholes. Now she’s calling on families throughout the country to spread the word that Hertz is the only one that agreed and to demand that all the groups sign the promise.
In the press conference, Boxer was joined Callie Houck, the mother of two daughters who were killed in a crash while driving a recalled vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The recalled PT Cruiser being driven by Raechel and Jacqui caught fire, causing the tragedy. She said at the conference that the law Boxer and New York Senator Chuck Schumer have proposed to ban the rental of cars under recall is necessary. This is because consumers can’t depend on the car hire industry to do the right thing. All the senators are asking for is that companies don’t rent or sell vehicles under safety recall, she added.
Representatives from Enterprise Holdings, Dollar Thrifty and Avis Budget responded to the press conference by saying that they have addressed safety recalls in a timely manner and support federal legislation to ensure the safety of rental cars. A spokesperson for Enterprise said that they don’t rent any cars under recall until they have been repaired. In a letter, the company noted that it wants to continue renting vehicles in some cases, when consumers can be notified of the risk. For example, minivans fitted with stickers that show inaccurate weight limits – they don’t want to sideline the vehicles while they are waiting for accurate stickers.
In a June 5 letter to Boxer, Dollar Thrifty said that they have an outstanding safety record – particularly regarding the timely repair of safety recalls. Manager of corporate communications and investor relations Anna Bootenhoff says they have advised Boxer that they support appropriate laws on fleet safety and don’t think the pledge is a substitute for legislation. However, the senator’s office claims the operator gives no clarity in their rental policies.
A spokesperson for Avis Budget said they don’t and won’t rent cars under recall. However, Boxer’s office says the company makes exceptions for the sale of salvage vehicles in the wholesale market. In a letter from the company on June 11, they say their longstanding general practice is to not unload any recalled vehicles in retail or wholesale markets or the necessary steps are taken to keep a vehicle out of the stream of commerce until it’s fixed. Vice president of communications John Barrows said they strongly urge Boxer to make a similar inquiry and request pledges from other hire transport firms, passenger car fleet owners and passenger vehicle fleet operators so safety applies equally to everyone.
Together, over 1.5 million vehicles are owned by rental car firms in the US, and hundreds of thousands can be subject to recall during any year. The four major hire providers account for more than 90% of the country’s rental market, and all of them believe that any legislation needs to cover other transport businesses – like taxis and limousines. Boxer says she thinks this can be dealt with eventually, but she’s working on a bill that can be ready in three weeks.