28 May 2014
Recalled Cars Still Being Rented
Posted By Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez
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 at risk.”