AP News

5 major rental car companies agree on recall plan


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — When Cally Houck lost her two daughters in the wreck of what turned out to be a defective rental car, she thought there must be a rule keeping those vehicles off the road.

"There had to be some sort of law that prohibits this practice," the California lawyer said of unrepaired rentals leased after safety recalls. "We learned there was no such law."

So she took up the cause, knowing she couldn't bring her daughters back but hoping she might help save others.

On Thursday, Houck joined Democratic U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer of California at an announcement in Washington that five of the biggest names in car rentals nationwide have agreed to support legislation that would make it illegal to lease recalled vehicles.

Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline Houck, 20, were killed in a 2004 head-on crash when a power steering hose defect in a Chrysler PT Cruiser caused a fire and the car ran out of control. The Enterprise rental was under a safety recall but hadn't been fixed.

While the senators praised Houck's advocacy along with automotive safety groups that pushed the issue, she thanked the lawmakers and industry "in memory of my treasured daughters."

She said the proposed law is "common-sense legislation that will prevent tragedies like my family endured."

Schumer said the agreement involving Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, Dollar Thrifty and National will pave the way for the bill he expects will be passed during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress.

"This historic agreement will be a major improvement in auto safety, particularly since rental car companies are the largest purchases of new vehicles in the nation," a coalition of consumer groups and relatives said in a statement.

Hertz officials said the company adopted the provisions in January.

"We are pleased the rest of the rental car industry is now fully supportive," said Richard D. Broome, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Hertz.

Schumer said the companies involved in the agreement represent 93 percent of the rental car industry. National and Enterprise are operated by the same company.

The companies have worked with the senators on the legislation and support the effort, according to a letter signed by executives from each company.

No law now prohibits the leasing of cars under safety recalls, according to AAA, the national auto club and lobbyist.

"AAA views this legislation as a common-sense solution that would help keep unsafe vehicles off the road," AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet said.

___

Associated Press Writer George M. Walsh contributed to this report.


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