Safety advocates are urging lawmakers to close a loophole that allows used
vehicles under recall to be rented or sold without being repaired —
especially General Motors cars that have been linked to at least 13 deaths.
Under federal law, used-car dealers and rental companies are not required
even to tell customers that a vehicle has been recalled. It’s an
oversight one expert said could cost more lives.
To date, 2.6 million GM cars have been recalled for an ignition switch
defect. “If it’s not safe new, we don’t think it should
be allowed to be sold as a used car or rented,” said Rosemary Shahan,
president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. “People
expect that the car they buy or rent is safe.”
The U.S. Transportation Department’s Grow America Act, now before
both houses of Congress, includes a provision that would prohibit vehicles
from being sold by dealers or rented until they are repaired. And a Senate
bill proposed in the wake of the 2004 deaths of Jacqueline and Raechel
Houck, two sisters killed in a recalled vehicle they had rented, would
address rental cars. But versions of that bill have languished in the
Senate since 2011, even though the largest rental companies have supported
it since 2012.
“It’s time we close the car-sized loophole that allows recalled
vehicles to leave the lots of car rental companies and used car dealers
without repairs,” U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) told the
Herald. “I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to pass legislation
to protect consumers and prevent future tragedies from happening.”
For either piece of legislation to succeed, however, advocacy groups such
as Shahan’s will have to contend with auto dealers and manufacturers.
Gloria Berquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers,
which represents 12 automakers, including GM, said it would support the
Senate bill pertaining to recalled rental cars if manufacturers were protected
from lawsuits by rental companies over lost business while recalled vehicles are idle.
Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the National Automobile Association, said
the Transportation Department’s proposal is unnecessary because
of a rule, slated to take effect in October, which will require all manufacturers
to have a database where people can enter a vehicle identification number
and find out whether the car has been recalled. “You’re supposed
to find out if the car you’re buying has been recalled,” Shahan
said. “Until you do, they’re perfectly happy to put your life