Cally Houck may be Enterprise Rent-A Car’s worst nightmare. But it isn’t like she is motivated by any trivial matter. Her daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, died in a head on crash with a tractor trailer in 2004.
The rental car company and Cally Houck crossed paths because the PT Cruiser in which the sisters died was an Enterprise rental. Tragically, that car was rented to the Houcks even though it had been recalled for a power steering leak that was determined to be a possible source of fire.
Houck refused to accept a substantial settlement in return for confidentiality about the matter. Along with her husband, she was awarded $15 million in 2010 and subsequently Enterprise Rent-A-Car admitted that “their negligence was the sole proximate cause of the fatal injuries.”
Since then Cally Houck has devoted a lot of energy to assuring that car rental companies repair outstanding recalls prior to renting cars to the public. In July Senator Chuck Schumer (D. NY) introduced The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2011 and last week as Congress prepared to debate the issue, Cally Houck posted a petition on Change.org requesting support for the bill.
At the time, according to Change.org, Enterprise was lobbying strenuously to defeat the bill, while Hertz was supporting its passage. Subsequently, the car rental company signaled that it would support legislation that offered increased oversight of the handling of recalls in the rental car industry. By then, the petition had grown to include over 140,000 names. Although stating “We hear them” in reference to their customers and business partners who believe that the issue is critical, Enterprise stopped short of making the same commitment as Hertz.
Houck, in turn, called it “a step in the right direction” but set the bar at the same agreement reached by Hertz with Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. She said in an update posted at Change.org that short of that the Enterprise statement would amount to “pure spin”.
New car dealers are prohibited by federal law from allowing cars and trucks to leave their lots without having outstanding recalls resolved, but there is no law requiring car rental companies to do the same.
Enterprise has insisted that since the 2004 crash they have made improvements in the manner in which they handle recalled vehicles. In response to a report performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the car rental company cited statistics that indicated that it had repaired 72 percent of vehicles in 30 days of notification and 93 percent in 90 days. The recall in question involved General Motors in 2010.
So as the legislation makes its way through the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, there may be the usual political wrangling but it won’t go unnoticed by Cally Houck who will be holding the car rental companies to a very high standard.
John DeCostanza, Recalls Should Be Resolved Promptly, The Car Connection
Jim Salter, Enterprise changes course, backs recall oversight, Boston.com
John DeCostanza, GAO Stresses need for Used Car Dealers to Fix Recalls Before Sale, Yahoo Contributor Network