DETROIT (Detroit Free Press) — The major U.S. rental-car companies promised Thursday to support federal legislation that would require them to fix recalled vehicles before renting or selling them.
The companies said they would support a bill introduced by three U.S. senators that would subject the rental-car industry to new federal regulations making it illegal to rent cars that had been recalled.
The Democratic senators — Charles Schumer of New York, Barbara Boxer of California and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — introduced the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act to prevent agencies from renting vehicles that have been recalled.
The major rental car companies said they were already proactively removing recalled vehicles from their fleets and fixing them before renting them to consumers.
Avis Budget Group, Enterprise Holdings, Hertz Global Holdings, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group and the American Car Rental Association backed the legislation after the industry came under pressure from consumer groups and regulators to submit to new federal guidelines.
“They’re going to live by the law before the law is passed,” Boxer said in a conference call with reporters.
David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, said in a statement that the agreement was “a major win for safety on our roadways and in our communities.”
The senators said they would push the bill during the lame-duck session after the presidential election.
The legislation got a boost when Enterprise dropped its previous objections to the new federal regulations, which would subject the industry to fresh NHTSA oversight.
Enterprise spokeswoman Laura Bryant said the regulations would “give consumers additional confidence that rental cars are safe to drive.”
“We now believe federal oversight, which will codify current practices and operational policies, will help to strength our industry safety efforts,” Bryant said.
It was not immediately clear how the legislation would affect the vehicle repair business or the auto industry, which counts rental-car agencies as major corporate customers.
“It’s important to ensure that all recalled vehicles are repaired, so policy should not have the effect of giving one set of customers - rental car companies - preferential treatment compared to the general car-owning public, who also should have the opportunity to have their vehicles repaired as soon as possible when a recall is issued,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the major automakers, said in a statement.
Hertz spokesman Richard Broome said the legislation “permits the companies to continue managing the recall and repair” process, “which we believe we’ve done responsibly for many, many years.”
The deal came after a public campaign from California resident Cally Houck, whose daughters were killed in 2004 when their Chrysler PT Cruiser rental car from Enterprise caught fire in a crash. The vehicle had been subject to recall but not fixed.
“We couldn’t bring my daughters back, so we had to go forward and we had to look at stopping this unsafe and disastrous process,” Houck said in a conference call.