The nation's four largest rental car companies have banded together in a pledge not to rent out any vehicles that are subject to a manufacturer safety recall and to support legislation that would legally enforce the promise.
Enterprise/National/Alamo, Hertz/Advantage, Avis/Budget joined Hertz in the agreement pushed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-California) and by Cally Houck, a California mother whose daughters died in the crash of a rental car that was under recall.
Houck's two daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, were killed in 2004 after the PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise apparently began leaking steering fluid and suddenly caught fire before crashing into an oncoming semi-tractor trailer. As reported in a 2010 ABC News investigation, the car had been under a safety recall for the potential fire hazard and, after a lengthy legal battle, Enterprise had to pay the Houck family $15 million in damages.
Under current law, car dealerships are banned from selling vehicles that are under a safety recall, but the restriction does not prevent rental agencies from renting out recalled cars. New legislation sponsored by Boxer and Schumer, called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012, aims to close that loophole.
"If this bill had been the law, and the rental companies complied, my beautiful, precious daughters would still be alive," Cally Houck said today. "My abiding hope is that it will be enacted, and other families will be spared our devastating loss."
After the 2010 ABC News report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation to see how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles that have been recalled.
With the exception of Hertz, all the major American rental car companies declined to sign a pledge this summer saying they wouldn't rent cars under recall. At the time, they said that while they supported safe rental car legislation, they wanted it to extend to other businesses that transport passengers in vehicles, like limousine and taxi companies. All the companies said then that they address safety recalls in a timely manner and representatives for Enterprise and Avis said their policy was already not to rent cars that were under recall.
But their recent decision to sign the pledge -- along with the newfound support of several safety auto agencies -- is a "breakthrough years in the making," according to Sen. Schumer.
"Consumers will no longer have to worry about what they aren't being told when they go to the rental car counter," he said. "With the industry's full backing, we think we have a great shot to get this legislation passed before the end of the year."