|ST. LOUIS, Mo – The Consumers Council of Missouri announced yesterday that it is calling upon Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO, to co-sponsor legislation to bar rental car companies from renting or selling unsafe, recalled vehicles to the public until the safety defects have been repaired. A key vote over rental car safety is expected July 15, 2015, in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
Under pressure from auto manufacturers and car dealers, Congress has delayed acting to protect the public. Recently, Honda admitted that a faulty Takata air bag in a recalled Honda Civic rental car claimed the life of a 26-year-old woman when the air bag exploded with excessive force, sending shrapnel into her neck.
The bill, S. 1173, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, has been re-introduced for several years. It is named in memory of two sisters, ages 24 and 20, who were killed by an unrepaired, recalled rental car in 2004, near Santa Cruz, California. The Houck sisters were killed by a 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise, based in St. Louis.
Subsequent to the settlement of a lawsuit by the Houck sisters’ parents, Enterprise responded to the outreach from consumer groups, including Consumers Council and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), and became an ally in actively advocating for passage of the Safe Rental Car Act.
As a majority member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Senator Blunt is in a position to play a key role in passage of the bill.
“How many more people have to die before Senator Blunt joins Enterprise, one of our state's largest businesses, and consumer groups in protecting the public?” asked state Rep. Tracy McCreery, secretary-treasurer of Consumers Council’s Board of Directors. “He should be leading the way on common sense protection for consumers who rent cars.”
Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, many smaller rental companies and the American Car Rental Association have been working in concert to support the bill, asking to be regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, last year General Motors changed its position and switched from opposing the bill to supporting it, after it was amended to clarify that it would not change existing law regarding manufacturer's obligations to compensate rental car companies for lost revenue.
Meanwhile, all of the major rental car companies and their trade association have pledged to stop renting or selling recalled cars until they have been repaired. However, as the recent tragedy showed, federal legislation, enforceable by NHTSA, is needed to ensure that all rental cars are free from lethal safety defects that have led to a manufacturer's safety recall. Last August, Jewel Brangman, age 26, rented a 2001 Honda Civic from a small rental car company in San Diego. On September 7, she was involved in a low-speed chain-reaction crash in Los Angeles. She should have been able to walk away from the crash, but the defective air bag exploded into her neck.