The rental car companies are always looking for ways to cut costs, even if the measures may put their customers at greater risk. This seems to be the case in the companies’ resistance to cease renting recalled vehicles to unsuspecting drivers. This situation was detailed in a recent article at the Wheels blog of the New York Times. Here are excerpts:
The American Car Rental Association wants the government to adopt a new system that would designate some recalls as so serious that a vehicle should no longer be driven while others would allow cars to be driven and repaired later.
Such a two-tier system would be a huge change in the safety agency’s position, which has been that all recalls are important and should be carried out immediately.
Several consumer groups said the proposal would be a safety setback.
The car rental association represents 94 rental-car companies, including all the major operators except Hertz, said Sharon Faulkner, its executive director.
Bob Barton, the association president, said the word “recall” covered a wide range of problems. Rental car companies — as well as all other fleet operators and even consumers — need more information from the manufacturers about how quickly a recall should be conducted, he said.
“We can’t determine the significance of a recall and whether a vehicle is no longer safe to operate or whether it can continue to operate and then should simply be brought in for service at some point in time,” he said. “We simply want the manufacturers to instruct us when a vehicle needs to be grounded and we will absolutely comply.”
Asked how recalls are handled now, Mr. Barton said: “If we get a notice that says the vehicle needs to be grounded, every company will set their own policy. But as a general rule I would suggest everybody would ground that vehicle.”
Asked about recalls for which the automaker does not say the vehicle should be parked until fixed?
“Every company will set their own policy, but ultimately that repair will get done, but maybe not immediately,” he said.
Several consumer organizations said the association’s proposal would be bad for renters.
Ami Gadhia, policy counsel with Consumers Union, said a consumer whose vehicle was recalled could — and should — take the vehicle in quickly to have it fixed. But, she said, people renting vehicles should be assured that all recalls have been carried out without delay.
“There is a tremendous amount of trust that consumers put in that transaction,” she said.
Rosemary Shahan, the president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety of Sacramento, said in an e-mail that the proposal would “perpetuate rental-car roulette and allow rental car companies to get away with renting out vehicles that are so unsafe they are being recalled.”
The idea of a two-tier system amounts to a license to rent cars with “with unrepaired safety defects,” Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, wrote in an e-mail.