Uh-oh, as if the automotive industry needed another hiccup that would make itself look bad. Okay, so the rental car companies aren’t really part of the auto industry, but they’re a very key component to car sales and to the traveling public. And when there’s a recall our for a car, it’s very important to make sure that issue is addressed immediately to ensure a well oiled machine that’s safe for everyone on the road, not just the person driving it.

You see, it’s come to our attention that some rental car companies aren’t following through with recall notices, sometimes for even up to a year or more! Roughly 50 percent of recalled cars in a rental car’s fleets are actually sent in for the work. How dirty…

The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) President, Bob Barton, addressed these issues recently in a blog on their site and said:

Every year, auto manufacturers, together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, issue hundreds of recalls and service bulletins affecting millions of vehicles in North America, including thousands of our members’ rental cars and trucks. This is done via direct communication between the manufacturers and the rental car companies, NOT via the Association. Further, many members’ practices exceed what is required. Although ACRA does not maintain an industry standard for recalls, and each member company follows its own pre-established operating guidelines, in most cases, members place a “hold” on recalled vehicles so they are not rented until the recall work is completed. Most recalls issued by manufacturers do not require the owner of the vehicle (whether it be a rental company, leasing company or a private individual) to ground a vehicle and cease operation.

According to Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, “There can be months of delay between the time a manufacturer notifies NHTSA about a defect and when vehicle owners are informed of a recall. NHTSA could require car makers to notify rental companies sooner.” This would be a positive step towards helping our members in their commitment to  providing customers with vehicles that are safe to drive.

So basically, it sounds to me that Mr. Barton isn’t addressing the real issues. He’s just saying, “Hey, don’t look at me… I don’t live here!” So if he’s the President of ACRA, what exactly does he do, then?

Anyway, the point is, we need some type of legislation from the government to make sure that this doesn’t happen. And while Mr. Barton is correct in saying that many recalls aren’t necessarily cause for a vehicle’s use to be ceased right away, it’s still something that should be addressed in the same fashion the rental car companies want their money: Right here and right now!

So right about now you’re wondering who the best companies are to rent from, right? Well according to the study conducted by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), from 2006-2010, ranging only recall notices given by GM and Chrysler (Ford would not disclose their recall information for the study), 65% of the cars recalled were fixed within the first 90 days. Not bad, but not great. Avis/Budget only fixed 53% after the same 90 days, and Hertz was rated at 34%.

All of this information came about because two sisters rented a Chrysler PT Cruiser in California and were killed in an accident when the power steering fluid caught fire and they crashed head-on into a semi-truck. Chrysler had sent a recall notice due to the fact that the power steering fluid could catch fire… The car was rented from Enterprise. The girls’ family the rental car agency and won $15 million, and they’re now lobbying California lawmakers to make it law that all recalled cars cannot be rented until they’re fixed.

Now what have we learned here? Firstly, don’t ever rent a car you know nothing about. Secondly, thank God Chrysler doesn’t make that PT Cruiser thing any longer…

Stay safe out there!

[Source: Consumer Affairs & ACRA]