One of the nation’s largest rental-car companies has acknowledged in court that it regularly rents vehicles even though it is aware that they are covered by a safety recall and should be first taken in for repair.
That news came out in a California court case involving the death of two women whose rental car caught fire after a collision with a tractor trailer. The PT Cruiser they were provided by Enterprise had, in fact, previously been rented out three times after the company had received a recall notice from Chrysler.
“When demand called, we rented out recalled vehicles, it happened, I won’t lie,” said Mark Matias, who previously served as an Enterprise area manager in San Francisco, near where the accident occurred that claims the lives of 24-year-old Raechel Houck and her sister, Jacquie, 20.
While the case was in discovery, Enterprise Manager Thomas Moulton was asked, “Did you ever consider the possibility that Enterprise should not rent cars to the public after they’ve received recall notices from the manufacturer?” Moulton, according to the ABC Report, responded, “No.”
During the trial, reports ABC News, Enterprise tried to argue that the accident was the result of the driver, Raechel, being “suicidal or on drugs.” But two weeks before trial, noted the Houck family’s attorney, Larry Grassini, the company “freely admitted that they were the only cause of the deaths.”
After turning down an initial $3 million settlement offer, which would have sealed the court documents and silenced the Houck family, a jury returned a $15 million settlement in the family’s favor.
“Given all we have learned, today we would ground the recalled PT Cruiser until repaired,” Enterprise executive vice president Greg Stubblefield said in a statement.
The rental firm says it held off on renting 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokees that had airbag problems, and 35,000 Toyota and Pontiac models potentially experiencing problems with sticky accelerators.
Safety experts quoted by ABC note that there are no specific policies at either of the two largest rent-a-car firms, Hertz and Avis, against renting recalled vehicles before they’re repaired. Instead, they make decisions on a case-by-case basis depending on the recommendations of the vehicle manufacturers.
(Enterprise deletes “standard” side airbags to save money, then sells the Impalas without alerting buyers. Click Here for that story from UsedCars.com.)