Feds to Probe Car Rental Safety

In its first audit of the year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) just opened a probe into rental car companies and how often they do—or do not—repair <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">rental vehicles subject to a safety recalls.

The agency plans on looking at some three million General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford vehicles sold to car rental companies, said Auto Rental News. The investigation will provide “an indication of how completely and how quickly rental car fleets, in general or individually, perform necessary recall-related repairs or other remedies on the vehicles owned and then leased for use on the roadways,” quoted Auto Rental News.

The investigation was driven by “allegations of personal injury and death claimed to have been caused by safety defects and failures to conform to minimum Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards on rental car vehicles…,” said the NHTSA, wrote Auto Rental News. Also, according to the agency, a petition was filed this August with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop renters from renting defective vehicles, said Auto Rental News.

The Center for Car Safety and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety filed the petition with the FTC in an effort to ensure that Enterprise and its parent company cease renting unrepaired, recalled vehicles, said Auto Rental News. The petition came after a lawsuit was filed by Chuck and Carol Houck against Enterprise Rent-A-Car following the deaths of their daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, in 2004, said Auto Rental News.

The Executive Director for Auto Safety alleges that car renters wait to have repairs made and do not typically take the recalled vehicles out of commission. Rental companies deny this; however, decisions as to safety appear to be being made by dealerships. For instance, Enterprise’s policy is to pull vehicles when recalls are deemed high-risk in its opinion; other recalls are handled “as soon as possible.”

Current federal regulations mandate dealerships repair recalled vehicles before sales, but no similar law exists for the rental of vehicles.

The Houck sisters rented a Chrysler PT Cruiser from Enterprise, unaware that the Cruiser had been recalled for a power steering hose defect known to lead to underhood fire, said Auto Rental News. The car the women were driving had not been repaired; both perished in a head-on accident with an 18-wheeler after the car burst into flames.

The petition indicated that in early 2010, Enterprise settled the lawsuit, paying $15 million to the parents and admitting liability, said The Chicago Tribune. “Once Enterprise receives the official notice of the recall, the affected vehicles should be immediately parked until fixed,” the Center for Auto Safety said in its petition, quoted the Tribune.

“We, of course, are willing to cooperate with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Trade Commission in any inquiry they wish to make concerning our current practices,” Enterprise said in its statement, quoted the Tribune.

Recently, Enterprise Holdings announced it was pulling some recalled Toyota cars from its rental cars and would have the cars serviced before placing them back into service, the Tribune reported.

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