Senate Bill Could Ground Rentals for Minor Recalls


WASHINGTON (July 31, 2013) - The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday passed S. 921, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013, by voice vote. The bill would regulate businesses with fleets of five or more rental vehicles (including dealerships that provide loaner vehicles) and subject these cars and trucks under any open recall to be grounded within 24-48 hours.

The National Automobile Dealers Association and a coalition of dealership associations argued in a letter to the committee that all recalls do not require the grounding of a rental vehicle. The groups stressed that the bill is overly broad and gives large rental car companies a competitive advantage over smaller ones.

"Dealers do not want unsafe, recalled vehicles on the road," said NADA President Peter Welch. "But the legislation fails to recognize the difference between major and minor recalls. Some recalls require immediate action, but others may be as minor as missing or incorrect information in an owner's manual." 

Other examples include a clarification of the description of the air bag system in the owner's manual; a seat belt chime not sounding if the driver buckled his seat belt before starting the vehicle; incorrect date of manufacture on the Federal Certification Label; improper airbag caution label adhesion on the driver's sun visor; and inaccurate spare tire size and cold inflation pressure information on the placard. All of these examples could potentially ground vehicles under S.921. 

Welch noted that the large multinational rental companies supporting the bill have fleets of hundreds of thousands of vehicles and can easily comply with the bill because grounded vehicles can be replaced with other models. Small dealerships with just a few loaner vehicles for their service customers do not have this option, added Welch.

Prior to the vote, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.) acknowledged that "more work needs to be done" on the bill before the Senate takes further action. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the bill, said she wants to "work on perfecting amendments going forward."

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