NHTSA Investigating Reports of Hertz Renting Recalled Cars Without Required Repairs

Rental car companies are not legally allowed to rent vehicles without addressing repairs due to recall notices.

Federal highway safety regulators have launched a probe to investigate reports that Hertz rental cars may have been used while they still had open and unrepaired safety defects, which could increase the risk of accidents and serious injuries.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) will be conducting an audit query on December 16, to confirm whether The Hertz Corporation (Hertz) violated federal laws that prohibit renting recalled cars before repairs are complete.

Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act), it is expressly written that rental car companies shall not rent a vehicle that is subject to a safety recall unless the vehicle has been repaired with the appropriate remedy provided by the auto manufacturer.

According to the agency’s December 12 investigation notice, NHTSA has received information dating back to late 2021, which indicates that The Hertz Corporation rented vehicles to customers without required recall repairs performed on those vehicles.

While the exact vehicles with open recalls were not disclosed in the announcement, the agency indicates it has received reports Hertz rented both Ford and Nissan vehicles ranging from model years 2018 through 2020, which had open and unrepaired recalls at the time of rental.

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Officials have appointed Jeremy Gunderson as the lead investigator, to seek additional information to verify whether Hertz has violated any of the requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 30120(i) Limitation on Sale or Lease of New Vehicles or Equipment, or Rental under the Safety Act.

Legislation to require rental car companies to repair open recalls on vehicles prior to renting them to customers was passed in 2016, as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.

Rental car recall repair laws specifically require all rental car agencies carrying fleets of 35 vehicles or more to repair any and all open safety defects before renting the vehicles to customers, or be subject to punishment and fines. The new laws give the NHTSA full power to monitor, investigate and enforce penalties or repair actions on qualifying rental car companies.

Prior to the 2016 law, only new vehicles sold through dealerships were required to be repaired of any safety defects, whereas rental car companies were not mandated to repair any open safety recalls announced by the NHTSA, placing consumers at risk of injuries or auto accidents caused by known and avoidable safety defects

The efforts to require rental car repairs followed the tragic deaths of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, two sisters who died in a fiery crash in 2004 on a California highway. The sisters rented a PT Cruiser from an Enterprise Rental car facility, which had an outstanding recall on a power steering leak that was never repaired.

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