Boxer Presses General Motors CEO Mary Barra on Rental Car Safety
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) this week questioned General Motors CEO Mary Barra on rental car safety at a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing on GM’s recall of 2.6 million vehicles. Senator Boxer asked Barra to explain GM’s opposition – through the industry trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – to the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, which would protect consumers from unsafe rental vehicles under recall – at the same time that GM is placing owners of its own recalled vehicles into rental cars.
For a video of Senator Boxer’s exchange with Barra, please click here.
“Do you support a proposed law by Senator McCaskill and myself that would say recalled cars like yours can no longer be rented or loaned?” Senator Boxer asked.
After Barra refused to commit to supporting the bill, Senator Boxer responded: “Now you should know that my constituent Cally Houck lost her two daughters, Raechel, 24, and Jacquie, 20, in a tragic accident caused by an unrepaired safety defect in a rental car they were driving. So [with] Senator Schumer and McCaskill, we wrote the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. And you know what, the rental car people support it, but you don’t. The automobile manufacturers don’t. So you are essentially bragging today, if I may use the word, that you’re telling your people to get another car, but at the same time your lobbying organization is opposing a bill that would make sure no one would die the way they died.”
While current law prohibits car dealerships from selling new vehicles under recall to consumers, no law bans rental car companies from doing the same or renting them to unsuspecting consumers. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act – sponsored by Senator Boxer and Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – would keep unsafe rental cars that have been recalled off the road.
The bipartisan bill is named in honor of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, two sisters from Santa Cruz, who were killed in a tragic accident in 2004 while driving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser that had been recalled for a power steering hose defect but had not been repaired. The car caught fire because of the defect while traveling on Highway 101 in Monterey County, causing a loss of steering and a head-on collision with a semi-trailer truck.
In September 2012, Senators Boxer, Schumer and McCaskill announced that all major car rental companies – Hertz, Enterprise, Avis Budget, Dollar Thrifty, and National – agreed to voluntarily stop the renting or selling of vehicles that have been recalled by their manufacturer and endorsed the legislation.
Although the bill has the support of the major rental car companies and consumer advocates, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – which includes GM – has opposed the bill and is working to prevent it from moving forward in the Senate. The National Automobile Dealers Association, which includes many GM franchise dealerships, is also opposed to the legislation.
Boxer made clear that Barra’s stance is especially troubling in light of GM’s promise to cover the cost of interim rental vehicles while its customers wait for their vehicles to be repaired. Although the major rental car companies have pledged to keep unsafe vehicles off the road, there is no assurance that a driver will be placed in a safer vehicle since there is no federal law that prevents unsafe, recalled vehicles from being sold or rented to consumers.
Senator Boxer pointed out, “So you can send your owner of one of these cars to a rental place to get a loaner … and they could get a defective car.”
The legislation is also endorsed by American Car Rental Association, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Consumers Union, and State Farm Insurance.