Yet with all the rental car guidance out there, there was virtually no information available to consumers about the safety of these cars. That’s most likely because it was inconceivable that any rental car company would rent a car that was defective, recalled and remained unfixed. I’m not talking about companies like Rent-A-Wreck, where you gotta expect there might be issues (although the company does boast about “maintained and safety inspected vehicles.” However, I will say that the last time I drove a Rent-A-Wreck, I got a flat tire in the middle of LA’s 405 Freeway. Thank you Caltrans! ) No, I’m talking about the big guys, the ones with 93 percent of the market, who rent out spiffy new and costlier cars: Hertz, Avis, Dollar, and the new #1 company (after acquiring National and Alamo) – Enterprise. Who would question the safety of these cars? Turns out, we all should have.
Thanks to the persistent efforts of: 1. Cally Houck, whose daughters Raechel and Jacqueline were tragically killed in a defective, recalled Enterprise rental car (see our early coverage here, and 2. the indefatigable consumer advocate Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (and her DC advocates), Enterprise finally became the last company to agree to legislation banning the rental of defective, recalled cars. Writes the Kansas City Star:
Car rental giant Enterprise Holdings has joined the rest of its industry in backing federal legislation to prohibit companies from renting out or selling vehicles under safety recalls.
The announcement Thursday brought together, for the first time, all four major U.S. car rental companies in support of new safety requirements. The long-sought agreement to ban the rental of autos that have been recalled but not yet fixed stems from a double fatality involving an Enterprise car rented in California in 2004.…
The second-largest in the industry, Hertz, had already agreed to back measures outlined in a U.S. Senate bill named in the Houck sisters’ honor.
Now, all four companies are pledging to fix recalled vehicles before renting or selling them. However, what safety advocates really want is the only way to guarantee this practice: federal legislation.
With the industry on board, “we don’t know who would oppose this bill,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat. He predicted bipartisan passage of the Senate measure and a U.S. House version by the end of the year.
A Senate co-sponsor, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, said she was stunned to learn that no federal law protected car renters from driving off in a vehicle under a safety recall.
“If you asked anyone on the street about it, you’d hear, ‘Well, of course, they (rental companies) can’t do that,’ ” Boxer said.
She credited constituent Cally Houck, mother of the 2004 crash victims, for “making something positive out of what happened to her,” a tragedy Boxer called “unthinkable.”
Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined Boxer and Schumer in co-sponsoring the measure.
Said McCaskill, “Consumer advocates and industry representatives were able to bridge their differences and find common ground here, and that's what we need more of in politics.”
It's terrible that it took such a tragedy to move this industry to do the right thing. And it's not over yet. Let’s hope Congress moves quickly.