Car Owners Object to Settlement in Airbag-Lacking Vehicle Case

A class-action settlement involving former Enterprise Rent-A-Car vehicles lacking side airbags will require the distribution of $100 vouchers and stickers warning "No Side Curtain Airbags" to buyers of certain Chevrolet and Buick models once in Enterprise's fleet, according to the Kansas City Star. The settlement has angered many car owners.

The standard safety features were intentionally omitted from the cars during manufacturing.

The Kansas City Star reported in 2009 that General Motors allowed Enterprise and other large fleet buyers to "delete" head-protecting side airbags on the factory floor. CBS News' "The Early Show" also conducted a hidden-camera investigation about the missing side airbags. The practice enabled Enterprise to lower the price of each car ordered by less than $200. The savings totaled more than $15 million over a three-year period.

The affected cars included Impalas, Chevy Cobalts and HHRs, and Buick LaCrosses. The vehicles were sold to consumers or auctioned to automobile dealers nationwide once their rental days were over.

Federal standards did not require the cars to come equipped with side airbags, and GM said the vehicles passed safety tests. But because side airbags were otherwise standard on the models, many cars were erroneously advertised online as having the safety features or a "5 Star Driver Side Crash Rating."

Neither of those claims was true, but Enterprise blamed a computer glitch for the bad information appearing on its own used-car Web site. Enterprise then removed the postings and offered more than 740 direct buyers a buyback deal or $200 if they chose to keep their cars.

Enterprise sent settlement proposals to more than 100,000 owners of the affected vehicles. At least three dozen car owners who received notices of the proposed settlement filed written objections with the court, and more than 200 formally opted out of the agreement. One Impala owner was quoted as saying said she doubted that anyone would buy her car with the stickers attached.

That relief was not available to consumers who bought their cars from third parties, including used-car dealers who acquired the Enterprise vehicles at auction.

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