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Rental Companies to Stop Leasing Vehicles Under Safety Recalls

Their announcement comes in advance of a congressional vote on legislation to bar the rental of such vehicles.

By Claire_Martin Sep 27, 2012 12:33PM
Enterprise Rent-a-Car photo by George C CampbellIf you walked through a car-rental lot today, you might discover vehicles that are under safety recall scattered among the fleet -- and you could easily end up driving away in one. But the five major rental agencies have now announced they will no longer rent such cars. 

Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar Thrifty and National made the announcement as legislation banning the rental of safety-recall cars makes its way to Congress. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the upcoming legislative session.

The big question is, why did it take so long? Current law prohibits car dealers from selling vehicles that are under recall, but does not address rentals. As the president of the Automobile Association of America, Robert L. Darbelnet, put it in an interview with The Associated Press, "[T]his legislation [is] a common-sense solution that would help keep unsafe vehicles off the road."

One of the cases that helped spur legislators was that of two California sisters killed in a 2004 rental-car fire. Their rented vehicle caught fire while under recall for a power-steering hose defect that had not been repaired.

The announcement by the companies marks a fairly abrupt change in their approach to the issue. As recently as March 2011, Enterprise, Hertz and Avis/Budget challenged the results of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study of how quickly rental-car companies respond to recalls. 

The study focused on 10 Chrysler and GM recalls between 2006 and 2010. Results showed that Enterprise fixed 65 percent of recalled cars with 90 days; Avis/Budget repaired 53 percent of cars within 90 days; and Hertz fixed just 34 percent in that timeframe.

"Rental car companies should be immediately barred from renting cars that would be pulled from showrooms and car dealer lots because of safety recall concerns," Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said when the study was released. "It's wrong, it's dangerous, and it must be stopped."

In January, Hertz instituted a companywide policy of not renting out cars under recall. And now the other four have followed suit.

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