The government has for some time, as well some members of the public, been aware that rental car companies are not getting recalled cars fixed. Rental car companies have been asked to pledge, in writing, not to rent out recalled cars but some major rental agencies are resistant to the idea.
Rental car roulette
Currently, according to AutoBlog, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, is trying to convince the largest car rental businesses to sign a pledge not to rent out cars that have been recalled but not yet repaired. Hertz has already signed said pledge, but other large rental car companies are thus far hesitant to sign it. Enterprise, also the parent company of National and Alamo, hasn’t agreed to sign Boxer’s pledge. Dollar/Thrifty is also refusing to sign it.
Avis-Budget, according to USA Today, also is hesitant to sign Boxer’s pledge.
Not the best track record
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation was launched into the matter in 2010, according to ABC. The investigation looked at 10 GM and Chrysler recalls between 2006 and 2010 for cars popular as rental vehicles. The NHTSA also looked at what percentage of those models were fixed within 90 days of the recall by Hertz, Enterprise and Avis/Budget.
The NHTSA found that for all recalled models within 90 days of the recall, Hertz fixed 34 percent of the recalled models in their fleet. Avis/Budget performed the fix 53 percent of the time and Enterprise had the repair performed 65 percent of the time.
The NHTSA also found the response varied between recalls; during a 2010 recall for sticking accelerator pedals in Pontiac cars, Avis and Enterprise grounded all affected vehicles. However, a 2007 Chrysler recall for randomly failing brake systems was only fixed 65 percent of the time by Enterprise, within 90 days, compared to 61 percent by Avis and 46 percent of the time by Hertz.
No law mandating recall fixes
The investigation was spurred by news of a lawsuit settlement, stemming from a 2004 accident which resulted in two deaths. Jackie and Rachael Houck were killed when their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser caught fire, resulting in the car running into an oncoming semi-truck. The car, according to AutoBlog, had been recalled for power steering fluid leak that posed the risk of a fire, but Enterprise didn’t have it fixed. Cally Houck, their mother, sued Enterprise; Enterprise admitted fault and was ordered to pay $15 million in damages by a federal jury in 2010.
A bill was introduced in 2011 which would have mandated rental car companies fix any rental cars under recall until the repair was completed, but the bill has stagnated. In January, Enterprise proposed to Senator Boxer in a letter that if such a law were passed, according to AutoGuide, it should include a loophole to allow recalled but unrepaired cars to be rented so long as customers were aware of the recall. Many recalls, as Enterprise correctly pointed out, are for issues that don’t affect how safe a car is to drive.
There is currently no law against rental car companies renting a car under recall that hasn’t been repaired, no matter how serious.