Consumer Groups Petition F.T.C. Over Rental Car Recalls

August 12, 2010


For Enterprise Rent-A-Car the affects of a $15 million settlement over the company’s rental of a recalled PT Cruiser simply won’t go away. The Houck sisters died when they lost control of their rental and crashed into a truck. Their mother has joined two auto safety groups in asking the Federal Trade Commission to require Enterprise to repair every vehicle in their fleet that has received a safety recall notice.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety which is one the groups involved in the request, told the New York Times that auto dealers are required by federal law to resolve a recall on a new car prior to its sale. There is no such requirement for car rental agencies. The June 27th post at All Car Advice entitled Recalls Should Be Resolved Promptly, which dealt with the Houck tragedy, called for car dealer demos and trade-ins to come under the same requirement.

In the New York Times article an Enterprise spokesperson said the company was deferring to the car manufacturers when deciding when to take a vehicle off the road. “They are considered the ultimate expert on this,” said Laura Bryant, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Holdings. It is this position that the petition to the F.T.C. is focusing on.

The petition points out that an official company statement states “recalls involving the risk of sudden loss of control, airbag failures or fire hazards will be grounded until repaired.” The petitioners have problems with the evaluation of risk that this policy generates and also Enterprise’s procedure for informing customers of pending or unresolved recalls that may be outstanding on the vehicles they are renting.

The petition calls for nothing less than having recalled vehicles be “parked until fixed”. It states that this is what is required of new car dealers in the case of new cars and that Enterprise is capable of such action citing their publicized remedy for the Toyota sudden acceleration problem in February 2010.

Ms. Houck told the New York Times that she didn’t understand why car rental companies were able to rent recalled vehicles to consumers without disclosing it. She said that she hoped that a F.T.C. ruling against Enterprise would send a message to the other car rental companies and that the resolution of safety recalls would not be discretionary.

“They have to be pulled from the lot and fixed. It is not rocket science,” she said.  

[Wheels Blog]

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