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Enterprise, the country's largest car rental and fleet agency, is finding itself in hot water after purposely deleting standard safety equipment from some 66,000 Chevrolet Impalas it purchased between 2006 and 2008 for its nation-wide fleet of rental cars. The full-size Chevy comes fitted standard with side-impact curtain airbags, but Enterprise chose to have the equipment removed to save the cost.

In an investigative piece broken by The Kansas City Star, industry sources say that deleting "unwanted equipment" can save fleet buyers like Enterprise significant costs, especially advantageous in the highly competitive rental car business where the lowest price is often the determining factor for many customers. By removing the airbags from the Impalas, Enterprise was said to have saved $11.5 million.

The rental company also acknowledged having ordered some 5,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Buick LaCrosses with the airbags removed at the factory. The placement of side-impact curtain airbags has been shown to dramatically reduce the number of fatalities from side collisions, the second most deadly type of accident after head-on collisions. Although the airbags came as standard equipment on the Impala, as well as the Cobalt and LaCrosse, federal safety regulations did not mandate their inclusion, therefore Enterprise broke no law in removing them. Research discovered at least five fatal side-impact collisions involving fleet-purchased Impalas from various companies.

To make matters worse, however, Enterprise reportedly sold 745 Impalas on the open market, falsely advertised as having the side airbags when they did not. Enterprise says the listing that specified the cars in question had the airbags was simply "a glitch in the system", and offered as recourse to buy back the cars from their new owners for $750 over their Blue Book value. That works out to $175 more than the cars would have cost with the airbags installed as standard equipment from the factory.

[Source: The Kansas City Star via CBS]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM allowed them to order the cars without the air bags. So I don't really see a problem there.

      The only problem that I see, is that they sold them as advertised to include air bags, which they did not. Could have been a simple mistake they will pay for.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They bought $10+ billion worth of cars (one year's revenue for Enterprise) over the course of 2 years, and decided that it makes sense to save $10 million (1/1000th) by deleting a potentially life-saving option, as well as take the risk of a tarnished image and reputation. Surprising for a company that has made it this far. Hopefully this ends up costing them a lot more than the $10 million they saved and serves as a warning to all others who fail to see the long term picture.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Seems like they're doing the right thing to make things right, and I'm guessing there are a few people in the used car division who are looking for jobs right about now too.

      Misleading article though, or at least the summary is misleading. It looks like they're in hot water for saying there were airbags in them when they resold them, and that the initial act of removing them was not illegal.

      Yes, they were 'standard' on the cards out of the factory, but not 'mandatory' (they are now I think). Reminds me of how many companies opted for those stupid automatic seatbelt-doorframe contraptions instead of putting airbags in back when there was a choice between the two.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Except if the standard impala comes with side impact airbags and you went to rent it you would assume that it would have the standard features. So unless Enterprise actually told you that they told GM to remove standard safety devices you would have no clue. And if some idiot running a red light then kills your kid in the back seat in a side impact, where the airbag might have prevented the fatal head trauma I think you'd have every right to be pissed off and sue the f**k out of Enterprise.
        And it doesn't matter whether the people who died were renting the car or bought it used from Enterprise or a dealer that resold it. They had no damned idea that it didn't have side airbags since nobody told them that the cars didn't have side airbags at the rental counter, and every damned spec sheet for the Impala listed the airbags as standard. Including the ones Enterprise sold the cars with.
        Finally, even though side airbags aren't federally mandated the NHTSA only crash tests the cars as the manufacturer normally sells them, so how can these cars have "passed" crash testing if they were never tested? GM may have legal responsibility here if they sold cars that were never proven to be crashworthy, since the car submitted for testing had side airbags. Of course I suppose their legal loophole is that they were Enterprise's cars, and that GM was merely removing the airbags from already-sold cars, but that's a flimsy argument at best and clearly unbelievably unethical.
        Then again since new GM doesn't have to bear the responsibility for injuries caused by cars sold by old GM guess they don't care.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Research discovered at least five fatal side-impact collisions involving fleet-purchased Impalas from various companies.

        Explain your point to the families of these victims.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder if on those particular models, if the trim panel that covers air bag is embossed with 'air bag' as a marketing effort and if it still said that on the cars delivered to Enterprise after the bags were removed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is exactly what I want to know. Was there SRS or Airbag badges on the B and C pillars also?
      • 5 Years Ago
      OMG... Although the vehicles are not mandated to have side airbags, corportate ethics and better judgements should have stepped in to hinder an organization from making such stupid actions. I guess one shoulld now second guess if the side airbags in there rental are actually there??? Moreover, I should be thankful the vehicle I brought from Enterprise didn't have side airbags... The last thing anyone wants to findout at the moment of impact is no cushion in the side walls when one was orginially supposed to be there. Absolutely appalling!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, they were cheap at people's safety then sold the cars. That's some evil crap.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The real question is, are there other car rental companies deleting standard (but not government-mandated) safety equipments and what types of equipments are they deleting? ABS? Traction control? Tire pressure monitoring systems? Side impact beams?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mountain out of a mole-hill. It's a shame they advertised the cars as having them, but they are trying to make things right. Sadly, they won't be rewarded for trying to do the right thing, instead some ambulance chaser will put his kids through college.
      • 5 Years Ago
      All 3 times Ive dealt with Enterprise its one bad story after another. I have never had a positive experience with them, and it doesn't sound like they've changed their evil corporation ways.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wait a moment!

      The term "remove" is not quite correct here. Enterprise did not "remove" anything nor did GM - the cars simply were not built with airbags to begin with. There would be no cost savings to Enterprise (or GM) if someone had actually removed equipment that was built into the car. While GM sells Impalas with side airbags standard, Enterprise chose to take delivery of cars with this feature omitted. Their only mistake was to advertise the cars as having them equipped when they were not.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ah, the need to cut corners in the pursuit of profit. Damn the people and all other considerations. It's the American way!
      • 5 Years Ago
      In June I rented a Cobalt from "Enterprise" (luckily only for 2 days). The must have "missed" to order the anti-lock-brakes option (why is there that option anyways?). Hertz is a bit more expensive but sure worth the money.

      just my 2 €-cents
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