Rental car companies agree on recall plan

September 27, 2012 7:29:59 PM PDT
A California mother's crusade for two daughters who died in a fiery crash has reached an incredible milestone. Jacqueline and Rachel Houck of Santa Cruz died while driving a car rented to them despite a federal recall. Their mother was stunned to learn after her daughters' death that Enterprise had rented them a car that had been recalled for a steering issue. Even more stunning, she learned there was nothing to stop rental car companies from renting recalled cars. Thursday, a bill to change that picked up some surprising support.

Callie Houck lost her daughters when their rented PT Cruiser crashed and caught on fire in Santa Cruz in 2004.

Thursday, four major rental car companies dropped their opposition to a bill that would make renting and selling recalled vehicles illegal nationwide.

"It will effectively prevent anymore tragedies such as our family endured," Houck said. "I believe that Rachel and Jackie are upstairs smiling down."

Rental car companies had opposed the bill, claiming the legislation was unnecessary. But Enterprise said it changed its position after hearing from customers who said such a law would put them at ease.

Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety fought alongside Houlk for the bill.

"They were under pressure because CAlifornia changed its contract; the General Service Administration changed its contract with Enterprise and said that 'if our employees are in those cars, you better ground them,'" Shahan said.

Rental car companies say they are already complying with the proposed bill. Violators would be subject to civil penalties and even criminal prosecution.

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer of California are confident the bill will pass with bipartisan support during the current session.

For Houck, that day can't come soon enough.

"I couldn't sit still and let them just be forgotten and let other families be at risk for a failed corporate policy," she said.

The rental car companies say technology has progressed such that its reservation system can now automatically block the renting of any recalled vehicles. The companies say they will fire any offenders.


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