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Raechel and Jacqueline Houck (Credit: Houck Family).
Bowing to pressure from consumers and advocacy groups, major car rental companies have agreed to end the practice of renting cars that have been recalled for safety problems and are supporting legislation that will end the practice.

Enterprise Holdings, which had been pushing back against legislation, said customers emailed and called the company asking Enterprise to back the bill.

Consumer pressure "made us reconsider our position," said Laura Bryant, communications director for Enterprise. "We thought federal regulation and oversight was not needed ... The consumers told us they would be more comfortable with greater oversight."

It was a car rented from Enterprise that ignited the movement that led to the legislation. In 2004, two sisters, Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, were driving in a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser when they lost control of the car and slammed into an 18-wheeler. They died at the scene.

The PT Cruiser, which they'd rented to take a trip home to visit their mom, Cally, had been recalled for problems with a hose that carried steering fluid. The fluid could leak, leaving drivers unable to control their cars.

The Houck family didn't know they car had been recalled until weeks after the accident. A loophole in recall laws allowed rental car companies to keep recalled cars in their fleets, without repairs, indefinitely.

Legislators will introduce a revised version of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act to the Senate by the end of the year that would keep recalled rental cars off the road. It's taken two years for Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Chuck Schumer to get the majority of the rental car industry on board. As of Thursday, the bill has the backing of all four major rental companies – Enterprise, which owns National and Alamo, Hertz/Advantage, Avis/Budget and Dollar/Thrifty, according to a statement released by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Those companies comprise 93 percent of the rental car market.

The bill was called a "major win for safety on our roadways and in our communities" by NHTSA administrator David Strickland.

Although the companies have agreed to keep recalled cars in the garage, until the law passes, there is nothing prohibiting them from renting those cars to consumers.

"Believe it or not, it's still not against the law to rent a car with a serious defect," Schumer said on a conference call to discuss the new bill. "When consumers go to the rental car counter, they shouldn't have to worry about what they're getting. Today we are solving this major loophole in the law once and for all."

Schumer said he hopes the bill will pass during the end-of-year lame duck session following the November elections.

"I remain very hopeful and optimistic" that the legislation will pass, Cally Houck, Raechel and Jacqueline's mother, told AOL Autos. "But it's not done yet ... I remain a bit cynical, based on my history lobbying for this issue. But we do have a consensus of all the industry's major players."

The rental companies had argued that they already have, in the past few years, put policies in place that keep recalled cars off the road. Rich Broome, senior vice president of communications at Hertz, said recalled cars are flagged in the computer system as recalled and are taken out of the pool of eligible rental cars. Any employee who rents a recalled car could be fired, he said.

Enterprise also has a similar practice in place, said Bryant, which led the company to believe it didn't need any oversight from the government to keep its customers safe.

"At some point, you realize that if this is what your customers want, you need to deliver," she said.


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  • 448 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      My husband died as the result of faulty tires on an Avis rental car back in 1963 and they hustled us into signing a release a few days afterward. I had only turned 23 years of age at the time and had no advice and was in a state of grief. A decent attorney would have gotten me enough to take care of my autistic child and my other child. Instead, I struggled to raise them. Rental car agencies are sharks. They gouge on prices and don't care if you live or die and rent crap cars all the time.
      Merry's AOL
      • 2 Years Ago
      How tragic this situation. When an automobile has been deemed "unsafe" and is recalled ... car rental companies should be the first ones to have to comply. To put human beings in harms way intentionally to me is nothing less than "pre-meditated murder". Shame on Enterprise and any other company that has these practices.
      hornet32j
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've owned three PT's their just a cheap car but a pretty good ride, two of mine were coupes one a convertable after the warrnety ran out 36000 miles they started falling apart not major stereo quit a/c went out one of the coupes power sreering like trying to steer a mack truck .
        • 2 Years Ago
        @hornet32j
        ANYTIME the power steering goes out it is like steering a tank. I know, too- it has happened to me with my truck on three separate and scary occassions.
        gr8bsn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @hornet32j
        The PT was a nice looking car body on a terrible car chassis - the Dodge Neon. The Neon was one of the worst cars ever sold in America when you consider how much better the competition was at the time.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is horrible. Im my opinion Enterprise murdered these two young ladies but not informing them that the car they were being rented had a major recall on it that could cause a severe accident and had not been serviced for said recall. Corporate greed is ridiculous, this company didnt even have to pay anything to get the problem fixed, just drive the cars over to the dealership. This is an outrage!
      klemon0320
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am sympathetic with the parents of these two young ladies, but the article leaves it unclear if the defect that inspired the recall is what caused them to loose control. I agree it was not right to rent them the car if it had not been properly modified, but it doesn't say the modification would have prevented this particular accident. Anyone have any "extra" information?
      • 2 Years Ago
      It would seem to me that ANYONE who knowingly puts someone in danger of injury and or death is guilty of a number of laws. Why would that be considered legal????
      stvhndyman
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ah, Congress is finally doing something. Of course it took them 2 years to get to this point of maybe passing a bill ! Now if they could only turn their attention to the bigger problems in the USA, but how long would that take them? Curing the ills of America is not so much the problem of the President, but rather the lack of co-ordination of the Congress.
      sunon
      • 2 Years Ago
      "At some point, you realize that if this is what your customers want, you need to deliver," you really needed the customers to tell you don't give me a rolling coffin?
      • 2 Years Ago
      enterprise cares about 1 thing... $, they dont give two ***** about their customers or employees. horrible company.
      hokanut
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thats got to be in the top 5 bs corporate cop outs. The cars are recalled for a safety issue and the company does exactly nothing to fix the problem? This is one case where I would cheer for the family if they sue and break the company.
      • 2 Years Ago
      horrible companys to ever let bad cars rented ever never period=this is so sad all u companies are horrible and not safe =u are more craftyer and wicked than the street life==great shame to u for these 2 sister deaths=u no better to rent a bad car out to people who are so innocent=shame shame great shame unberable shame =u are period very wicked=u caused the death of these precious 2 sisters=i conceder ur companies to be premeditated first degree murders=this mother should be recompenced to the full weight of the law =u should be charged with 2 first degree murder of innocent children=and many years in prison as far as the law can imprison u and all the C>E>O>s responcable for these 2 girls death=u full well know to keep american people in full safety
      Larry Berglof
      • 2 Years Ago
      What's "steering wheel fluid?"
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