Rental Car Safety Needs Legislation to Require Recall Repairs: NHTSA

Auto safety experts and consumer advocates are calling for new legislation that would force rental car companies to repair known vehicle defects before renting or reselling vehicles impacted by recalls. 

The U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Mark Rosekind issued a press release on February 20, announcing that they are pressing for Congress to pass legislation that would prevent customers from receiving rental cars or used vehicles subject to safety recalls until they have been repaired.

Under current laws, new car dealers are mandated to repair any safety recalls before the sales or within a timely manner following the discovery of the defect. However, rental agencies and used car dealerships are not held to the same standard and are not required by law to have the recalled vehicles repaired, which could create a hazard for drivers.

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Secretary Anthony Fox stated on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website that every vehicle under an open safety recall should be repaired as soon as possible. He also said that requiring rental car agencies and used car dealers to fix the defects before renting or selling those vehicles would make U.S. roadways much safer.

Pending Infrastructure Bill Could Address Rentals

The legislation would be included in an infrastructure bill known as the Grow America Act and would detail procedural rules for requiring the rental agencies and used car dealers to go about fixing the defects in the manner that new car dealerships follow currently.

The bill also includes plans for critical investments in infrastructure needed to promote long-term economic growth, enhance safety and efficiency, and support jobs in the upcoming years. The NHTSA claimed that the proposed legislation pieces together many different challenges that jeopardize roadway safety in today’s culture.

Requiring rental car agencies to repair recalls before allowing a customer to drive away in a potentially dangerous vehicles is not a new issue and has been brought to the attention of Congress repeatedly by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) for the last four years.

Sentator Schumer released a statement indicating that federal law has been needed in this area due to the serious crashed in recent years involving rental cars under recalls.

The senator stated that “rental agencies must be held to the same standard as automobile dealerships that don’t lease cars for longer terms until a problem identified in a recall is fixed.” Schumer has even said that the same “common sense” principles should apply to rental agencies.

Part of the NHTSA’s concern with rental vehicles not being repaired is due to a recent influx in vehicle safety recalls. In 2014 the auto industry shattered previous records for the number of vehicles recalled. An estimated 64 million vehicles were recalled due to defects last year, more than double the previous record. Additionally, recalls involving Takata Airbags and GM ignition switches impacted millions of vehicles and may have been factors in the deaths of a number of vehicle occupants.


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