Enterprise's Handling of Recalled Autos Targeted in Group's FTC Petition

Enterprise Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. rental-car company, lets autos under federal safety recalls be rented before repairs, consumer advocates said in a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to bar the practice.

Enterprise said in a lawsuit that employees may rent out vehicles that have been recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for defects, the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, based in Sacramento, California, said in a petition today. That amounts to a deceptive trade practice, the groups said.

“Only strong FTC enforcement action will stop Enterprise from renting unsafe vehicles to consumers and send a message to all rental-car companies to park recalled cars until fixed,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in the statement.

Auto manufacturers don’t ask that consumers immediately stop driving the vehicles in most of the recalls and service bulletins each year that affect millions of vehicles, Laura Bryant, an Enterprise spokeswoman, said today in a statement. The St. Louis-based company is improving the speed at which it identifies vehicles with safety defects, she said.

The safety groups were joined in the petition by Carol Houck, the mother of two daughters killed in a 2004 California crash involving a recalled Chrysler PT Cruiser that caught on fire, according to the statement. The family won $15 million in a lawsuit against Enterprise in June.

“Given all we have learned, today we would not rent the vehicle the Houck sisters were driving until it was repaired,” Bryant said in the statement. “We share the Houcks’ goal of preventing anything like this from happening again.”

Enterprise Holdings operates the Enterprise, National and Alamo car-rental brands, according to a company website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net.

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