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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), many rental cars subject to safety recalls are not repaired in a timely fashion. Documents provided to the NHTSA demonstrate that safety recall repairs can take months–and sometimes more than a year–and that none of the major car rental companies fixed all of the recalled vehicles within a year of receiving recall notices. For example, one year after a General Motors recall of certain 2009 vehicles, Avis Budget had repaired only 35% of its vehicles, Enterprise had repaired only 35%, and Hertz had repaired 52%.

“The rental car companies have been playing rental car roulette with their customers’ lives” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

The car rental industry is the single largest purchaser of new motor vehicles and the largest source of used vehicles in all of North America. 1.6 million rental vehicles are in use in the United States, hundreds of thousands of which are recalled every year because of safety problems and defects.

Legislation has been proposed in several states that would forbid rental companies from renting recalled vehicles until they have been repaired. When the U.S. Senate reconvenes on February 27, legislators are expected to consider a transportation bill that would grant the NHTSA authority to oversee rental companies and ban the rental, lease, or sale of vehicles subject to recall until repairs are completed.

In addition to slow response to safety recalls, some major car rental companies “cut corners” with safety features, sometimes even deleting standard safety features. In one instance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car had standard safety feature side-curtain air bags deleted from new automobiles it purchased from General Motors, saving millions of dollars, according to a Kansas City Star investigation.

Source: USA Today, “Recalls take car rental companies time to fix,” Gary Stoller, Feb. 21, 2012.