U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said he will introduce a bill to stop car rental agencies from renting automobiles that are under recalls for problems that aren't yet fixed.
The industry this month proposed a two-tiered system in which cars would be kept off the road if the recall involved serious safety issues. Recalls considered less serious would be fixed as soon as possible, but the cars wouldn't be "grounded" until then, under the proposal by the American Car Rental Association.
"Rental car agencies appear more interested in reaping profit by keeping recalled vehicles on the road then they do with ensuring the safety of the individuals and families who are driving their cars," Schumer said before his announcement Monday.
Schumer said the law is needed because of serious crashes in recent years involving rental cars under recalls. He said car rental agencies must be held to the same standard as automobile dealerships that don't lease cars for longer terms until a problem identified in a recall is fixed.
The American Car Rental Association said its two-tiered system would make sure unsafe cars aren't rented but also wouldn't keep cars off the road unnecessarily. The association said neither manufacturers nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives clear direction on which recalls pose a serious risk that must be fixed before a car can be operated.
"Currently all vehicle owners, including rental companies, must decide whether to continue to operate vehicles subject to a recall based on the information provided by the manufacturer and NHTSA in the recall notice," the association said on its website.
Schumer said all recalled vehicles should be off the road until they're fixed.
"The latest proposal by car rental companies to create a vague double-standard that defines some recalled cars as safe and others as dangerous allows these companies to shirk their responsibility to consumers' safety," Schumer said.
Schumer said a consumer who rents a car, unlike a private owner, won't be notified that the car is under recall.
An association spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment Sunday.
"We can't determine the significance of a recall and whether a vehicle is no longer safe to operate or whether it can continue to operate and then should simply be brought in for service at some point in time," the association's Bob Barton told The New York times in April in lobbying for a two-tier system.
"We simply want the manufacturers to instruct us when a vehicle needs to be grounded and we will absolutely comply," Barton said.