As the busiest travel holiday of the year gets
underway, U.S. safety officials have launched an
investigation to determine how quickly rental car
companies repair vehicles that have been recalled for
safety issues. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) has sent letters to GM,
Chrysler and Ford asking for details on the recall
repair status of almost 3 million cars that are among
the vehicles most commonly rented.
NHTSA says the crackdown was prompted by
"incidents involving allegations of personal injury
and death" allegedly caused by "safety defects" on
rental vehicles, including a 2004 case documented in
an ABC News report in which two sisters died in a PT
Cruiser rented from Enterprise that had been subject
to a safety recall.
No federal law requires that rental companies fix
recalled cars before handing the keys to consumers,
and as the ABC News report documented, not all firms
have policies in place to ensure that vehicles under
safety recall are repaired before they’re rented.
Executives from Enterprise, the country’s largest car
rental company, admitted that recalled cars were
sometimes rented without being fixed during
testimony for a lawsuit filed by the parents of Raechel
and Jacquie Houck, sisters who died when their
rented Chrysler PT Cruiser caught fire and hit a truck
on a California highway.
"When demand called, we rented out recalled vehicles,
it happened, I won’t lie," said Mark Matias, a former
Enterprise area manager in San Francisco, in an
affidavit filed for the case in 2008. "If all you have are
recalled vehicles on the lot, you rent them out. It was
a given. The whole company did it. Enterprise’s
corporate offices look the other way regarding this
Other Enterprise executives testified that there was no
companywide policy requiring cars under recall to be
held back from rental.
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