Dems pressure Fiat Chrysler to support recalled rental ban – The Hill

Posted: Thursday, September 03, 2015

A pair of Democrats is pressuring automaker Fiat Chrysler to support a bill that would ban car rental companies from distributing recalled vehicles. 

Fiat Chrysler was recently fined $105 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for allegedly failing to properly notify drivers, car dealerships and federal regulators about recalls that affected about 11 million vehicles. The company has also been accused of neglecting to repair cars in a timely fashion, as required by a 1966 law.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Fiat Chrysler should also publicly back their proposed legislation to ban recalled rentals after agreeing to a settlement with regulators that included the terms of the fine.

“Support for this bill should be an easy decision by your company,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. 

“While it would not solve the many serious recall issues Fiat Chrysler is facing, it would at least provide assurance that your large fleet of rental vehicles are safe for consumers to drive,” the lawmakers continued. “In addition, considering that your company has more than 20 active recalls affecting over 11 million vehicles, one would think you would want to do everything you can to prevent consumers from operating these vehicles. Our bill would legally provide you with such assurance for at least some of your vehicles.”

Fiat Chrysler is the latest in a series of car companies and auto part manufacturers that have been hit with heavy fines by the Obama administration. 

Boxer and Capps have tried to pressure auto companies to volunteer to the terms of their legislation on their own as they have struggled to gain truncation for the measure in Congress. 

The proposed bill, known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, bars the rental or sale of cars that are “subject to a safety recall” and authorizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate and oversee rental car companies’ procedures for safety concerning recalled cars. The measure is named after sisters who were killed in a 2004 crash in California involving a rental car that had been recalled. 

The car rental industry initially resisted calls from lawmakers to abide by the legislation before it was passed, but eventually, the major U.S. car rental companies signed on.

Auto manufacturers have also opposed previous versions of the measure because they say it will have unintended consequences, such as pushing car rental companies to the front of the repair line when auto models are recalled.

Boxer and Capps pledged Wednesday to continue pushing to pass the beleaguered legislation, even as they pressure auto companies to agree to the terms of the bill voluntarily. 

“We remain committed to ensuring that any rental vehicle subject to a safety recall under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act be grounded until the safety defect has been fixed,” they wrote. 

“All major rental companies — as well as General Motors and Honda — are similarly committed and have endorsed this bill, yet Fiat Chrysler has not,” the letter continued. “Will Fiat Chrysler commit to supporting this legislation to prohibit rental cars under safety recall from being rented or sold to consumers until the defect has been repaired?”  

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