Be very careful when renting a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car or one of its subsidiaries, and especially careful if you are considering purchasing a used vehicle from Enterprise. The company has been buying vehicles that normally come equipped with side curtain air bags as standard equipment. But Enterprise worked out a deal with the manufacturer to omit the air bags in order to save $175.
Of course Enterprise didn’t bother to warn customers or even purchasers of this omission. So people who did their research and learned a certain model comes from the factory with standard curtain air bags were shocked to learn, sometimes after a collision, that their vehicles had that feature disabled.
The Kansas City Star recently ran an excellent article exposing this shameful cost-cutting measure. Here are excerpts from the article:
Across the nation, more than 100,000 owners of certain Chevy and Buick models have received settlement proposals in the mail from St. Louis area-based Enterprise Holdings Inc. The car-rental company for three years had ordered new vehicles, mostly Impalas, without side curtain airbags that otherwise came standard, saving roughly $175 per car.
Those so-called program vehicles have now left Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s hands, and the company is offering everyone who owns one a $100 voucher that can be used for renting or buying something else from Enterprise.
A year ago last month, The Kansas City Star revealed that General Motors allowed Enterprise and other large fleet buyers to “delete” side airbags on the factory floor. Enterprise acknowledged taking advantage of the $175 discount on more than 60,000 Impalas over a three-year period, but not on all Impalas it ordered.
Still, the affected cars — model years 2006-08 Impalas and some Chevrolet Cobalts, HHRs and Buick LaCrosses once belonging to Enterprise’s fleet — are revving up confusion in the used-car marketplace: What’s supposed to be “standard,” after all, really isn’t.
In a recent spot check of used cars advertised by local dealers, The Star found seven Impalas up for sale that lacked the side airbag protection. Four of those were improperly listed online as having “side head air bag” or “5 Star Driver Side Crash Rating” when they don’t.
GM has since stopped the practice that enabled Enterprise — the nation’s largest buyer of new cars — to save millions of dollars and still provide rental cars that complied with federal safety mandates.
In the wake of The Star’s report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revised the information on its consumer website regarding 2006-08 Impalas and 2008-09 Cobalts and LaCrosse models. The five-star crash rating for Impalas in side-impact wrecks was given only to those vehicles equipped with the airbags, which the federal website safercar.gov now lists as “optional.”
After The Star reported that many Enterprise cars were improperly advertised on its website, Enterprise Holdings — which also owns National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car — sent letters to 745 buyers that said, “We are extremely sorry for the mistake.”