Senator Boxer Urges General Motors CEO Mary Barra to Support Rental Car Safety Legislation

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter urging General Motors CEO Mary Barra to support the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, bipartisan legislation that would help protect consumers by keeping unsafe, recalled rental cars off the road.

Last week, at a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing on GM’s recall of 2.6 million vehicles, Senator Boxer questioned Barra about GM’s troubling opposition to the legislation – through the industry trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – in light of the company’s promise to cover the cost of interim rental vehicles while customers wait for their vehicles to be repaired. Barra agreed at the hearing to take a closer look at the legislation.  

Senator Boxer wrote, “Your support for this bill is critical because right now there is no guarantee that your customers are renting safe cars while they wait for their recalled vehicles to be repaired.”  

Senator Boxer introduced the legislation with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) after two of Boxer’s constituents – Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, two sisters from Santa Cruz – 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 bipartisan 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.  

“You testified that ‘When there’s a safety issue, there should never be a business consideration that goes against it’,” Senator Boxer continued. “I hope you will take this to heart as you review this legislation.” 

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. The bill also has the support of Cally Houck, the mother of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck.  

The full text of the letter follows:  

April 8, 2014

Mary T. Barra, Chief Executive Officer
General Motors Company
P.O. Box 33170
Detroit, MI 48232-5170 

Dear Ms. Barra:  

During your testimony before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, you stated that you had not read S. 921, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, which is named after two sisters from Santa Cruz who were killed when a recalled car they had rented caught fire and crashed into a truck.  

This legislation, which was first introduced in 2012, would:  

     • Prohibit the rental or sale of rental vehicles subject to a federal safety recall, consistent with existing law for new car dealers, who are prohibited from selling or leasing recalled vehicles.
     • Require rental companies to ground vehicles within 24 hours of receiving a safety recall notice from the manufacturer. Companies with fleets over 5,000 vehicles would have up to 48 hours.
     • Permit rental companies to implement temporary measures to eliminate the safety risk until parts are available.
     • Allow manufacturers to continue to issue technical service bulletins or customer satisfaction service campaigns for problems that do not rise to the level of a federal safety recall.  

Your support for this bill is critical because right now there is now no guarantee that your customers are renting safe cars while they wait for their recalled vehicles to be repaired.  

You testified that “When there’s a safety issue, there should never be a business consideration that goes against it.” I hope you will take this to heart as you review this legislation.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

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