Boxer bashes rental companies for declining recalled-car pledge

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took the U.S. rental car industry to task Tuesday for declining to take her pledge not to rent cars that have been recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Boxer has been pressuring the largest car rental companies to volunteer to abide by the rules of a bill she and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are planning to introduce that would require them to pull recalled cars from their fleets.

Boxer said Tuesday that only one rental company, Hertz, had agreed to abide by the requirement before it becomes law. She vowed to continue pressing Enterprise, Avis and Dollar Thrifty to do so as well.

"If you go out on the street and ask the average person if they thought this was already a law, they would say 'absolutely,' because they know we do a lot here to ensure car safety. This is a huge loophole," Boxer said in a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.

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Boxer said the rental companies should volunteer to abide by her pledge because the legislation that would make it law will be approved by Congress swiftly.

"We're working on a bill we think will move quickly," she said. "We will have that ready in a couple of weeks."

Boxer added that she is "committed to making sure these companies make a permanent commitment to safety," vowing to continue holding press conference until all the major rental companies adopted the recall pledge.

The Clifton, N.Y.-based lobbying group for rental car companies, the American Car Rental Association, has said it supports efforts to pass legislation to deal with recalled rentals.

"The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) and its member companies are working with all stake holders to codify standards in addressing recalled vehicles which most of the industry already voluntarily undertakes in order to have a uniform standard which provides greater confidence to our customers," the group said in a statement last month.

"ACRA’s proposed legislation reinforces policies and practices our member companies already use to ensure that their customers rent cars that are safe to drive," the group continued. "It’s a responsible approach that reflects a great deal of thoughtful analysis and negotiation by companies that make up nearly three-quarters of our industry. We look forward to arriving at a solution that consumers, auto manufacturers and the car rental industry can all get behind and support."

A spokesperson for one of the companies that was criticized by Boxer, Dollar Thifty, said Tuesday that it was in support of "appropriate legislation on fleet safety."

But the company added "we do not think pledges are a substitute for legislation” and defended it existing safety record.

“Dollar Thrifty has an excellent record in dealing with safety issues and has extensive processes and procedures in place to ensure our customers’ safety," the Dollar Thifty statement said.

-This post was updated with new information at 2:39 p.m.