CBS News Plays ‘Gotcha’ with Recalled Rental Car

A CBS "Early Show" broadcast Jan. 12 investigated auto rental agencies that were renting recalled vehicles.

CBS Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen rented a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt from Avis that was part of a recall for a steering problem and had never been repaired. 

CBS reported that according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, the Cobalt's electric power steering fails suddenly while driving, resulting in several crashes, fires and injuries.

Koeppen alerted the manager at the Avis lot that she was with CBS News, and about the state of the car. The car was immediately taken out of service.

Clarence Ditlow, president of The Center for Auto Safety, told Koeppen he believed rental car companies were knowingly letting consumers rent cars that need to be fixed.

The CBS report featured Carol Houck of Ojai, Calif., who lost her two daughters in a crash involving a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Houck said the vehicle's steering ability was lost, and the vehicle veered into oncoming traffic and hit an 18-wheeler head-on. The car turned out to be part of an open safety recall for a steering defect.

In a statement to CBS News, Enterprise Holdings said, "Given all we have learned, today we would not rent the vehicle the Houck sisters were driving until it was repaired."

This past June, a California court awarded the Houcks a $15 million judgment against Enterprise. Consumer safety groups and some members of Congress are now asking the Federal Trade Commission to require rental car agencies to repair any recalled cars before allowing them to be rented.

The report noted a free recall check is available at Recall.Carfax.com.

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