Two auto safety advocacy groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit Enterprise Holdings Inc., the owner of the Enterprise, National and Alamo rental car companies, from renting out recalled vehicles that have not been fixed.
The Center for Auto Safety and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety petitioned the FTC to stop the practice. They were joined in the petition by Carol Houck, the mother of two young women killed in the 2004 crash of a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The car had caught on fire because of a defective power-steering hose. The family was awarded $15 million in damages by an Alameda County jury this year.
The petition asks that any vehicles that are subject to a recall be "parked" by Enterprise until fixed.
"Enterprise has already proved itself capable of living up to this remedy when it publicized in early February 2010 that it had removed from its fleet 83% of the affected Toyota vehicles within days of Toyota announcing its intent to recall them for the sticking accelerator problem," the petition said.
The petition also asks the FTC to stop Enterprise from making claims suggesting that its rental vehicles are safe, such as in ads that use misleading words like "well-maintained" and "security and reliability" to describe their vehicles, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.
In a statement, Enterprise said, "Given all we have learned, today we would not rent the vehicle the Houck sisters were driving until it was repaired."
The company said it reviews all recalls and now grounds any vehicles that involve "the risk of sudden loss of control, safety restraint failures or fire hazards" until repaired.
Ditlow said the FTC entered into a consent order with Budget Rent-a-Car in 1990 over that company's failure to disclose to consumers that it was renting defective vehicles that were subject to outstanding recalls and had not been inspected or repaired. He said he was looking for the federal agency to take a similar action with Enterprise.