Posted Jun 15th 2012 11:30AM
In 2004, Raechel and Jackie Houck were killed when they were in a fiery accident in the 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise. The girls' mother, Cally Houck, sued Enterprise when it was discovered that their Chrysler was the subject of a recall to repair a power steering hose leak over a potential fire issue, yet the car hadn't been repaired before it was rented. The five-year trial concluded in 2010, with Enterprise admitting negligence, at which point it was ordered by a jury to pay US$15 million in damages.
That hasn't stopped Cally Houck from campaigning. There is no law that requires rental car companies to repair recalled cars before they are rented or sold; companies have their own policies about how recalls are handled, but as one Enterprise manager testified during the Houck trial, getting cars repaired is balanced with getting cars rented. A report in the The Detroit News offered conflicting data about how quickly cars are repaired, but the real issue is that even if, as Enterprise says, "90 per cent of recalled vehicles have completed or required inspections within 30 days," those cars might still be in the rental pool during those thirty days.
Meanwhile, American Senators Barbara Boxer (D) and Charles Schumer (D) are working to change that, having introduced rental car legislation last July called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, but nothing has come of it yet. Rental car companies were asked to sign a pledge not to rent or sell vehicles that hadn't been repaired, but only Hertz signed; neither Enterprise (which owns Enterprise, National and Alamo) nor Dollar/Thrifty would sign, with Enterprise writing its own letter saying that it wouldn't do so and Dollar/Thrifty saying it would fix cars "as soon as practically possible." Boxer has made it clear that she will continue pushing for federal legislation.