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US Government Supporting Big Business - Throws American's Safety to the Curb


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Bloomberg / July 10, 2015

A U.S. Senate panel unveiled a plan to roll back protections consumers get when renting cars with potentially lethal safety defects, something a safety advocate called a step backward.

Under a bill introduced Thursday by Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who is chairman of the Commerce Committee, rental-car companies would be able to offer vehicles with unresolved flaws as long as they disclose the defects in writing to the renter.

(A US senator wants to allow big business to bury a danger declaration in that long-worded agreement form, legal speak that many people would miss. No requirement to verbally tell the unsuspecting customer, just include it in the intentionally confusing fine-printed contract that would take 15 minutes to read. Transparency in government? Hardly. Politicians go to the highest bidding lobbyist. Elected representatives displaying no morals and ethics should be promptly impeached)

Consumer groups have pushed for laws to prevent rental of defective cars. Legislation such as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act was considered by the Senate committee as recently as 2013 but never became law. The panel this year switched to Republican control.

(Why would your government intentionally want to block the recall of rental cars to resolve dangerous defects that have killed hundreds, e.g. the Takata air bag fiasco, GM ignition switch, ect. ????)

“This is going backward,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a safety group based in Sacramento, California. “This would be worse than existing practices for 95 percent of the industry.”

The Senate Commerce plan would let rental-car companies ignore the steps taken voluntarily by the largest companies, like Hertz Global Holdings Inc., Avis Budget Group Inc. and Enterprise Holdings.

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is supporting Thune’s legislation, arguing that less than 10 percent of recalls sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were deemed serious enough to recommend that consumers stop driving until their cars are repaired.

NADA and car dealers have been working with Senator Charles Schumer, the bill’s sponsor, on changes that would mitigate the economic impact on consumers and small businesses. (In other words, business profits outweigh your safety)

Alliance Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol, who lobbies on behalf of General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and 10 other automakers, said at the 2013 hearing legislation to stop renting defective cars would be harmful to consumers (a fairy tale) because dealerships would repair the rental cars before their customers’ vehicles.

The Houcks -- Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20 -- died in a 2004 crash involving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser. The car had been subject to recall for a defective power-steering hose that hadn’t been repaired. The women lost control after the hose caught fire and the car collided with a tractor-trailer.

“The promise of life my talented daughters held was snuffed out in a matter of seconds,” Cally Houck, the women’s mother, told the commerce committee in 2013. “Why didn’t the rental car company fix this defect before renting out a vehicle that was a ticking time bomb?”

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Senate Panel Reverses Course on Rentals of Recalled Vehicles

Bloomberg / July 16, 2015

A Senate panel killed a proposal to permit companies to continue renting vehicles that have been recalled, a measure criticized by consumer groups, automakers and even some rental-car companies.

The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee instead voted Wednesday to require cars be repaired before they’re rented.

The change resulted from an amendment by Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. It modified a bill, introduced last week by Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, that would have allowed rentals with known safety defects as long as companies disclosed the open recalls to customers.

“When consumers and families drive a rental car off the lot, they should be able to do so with the confidence that car is safe to drive, and we’re one step closer to that peace of mind today,” McCaskill said.

The panel approved the overall bill, which sets policy for automotive, trucking and rail regulators, on a party-line 13-11 vote. Democrats objected to the measure, saying it failed to include needed auto-safety provisions.

In the past week, Honda Motor Co. joined General Motors Co. as the second automaker to back the Democrats’ push for a ban on rentals with safety defects.

Consumer Protection

The American Car Rental Association, a trade group that includes Hertz Global Holdings Inc., Avis Budget Group Inc. and Enterprise Holdings, described the original Republican bill as a “significant step back in consumer protection” compared with current industry practices in a July 13 letter to committee leaders.

The National Automobile Dealers Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers aired objections about the Democrats’ proposal, saying it would have the unintended effect of harming consumers because dealerships would be forced to repair rental cars before their customers’ vehicles.

Thune said the overall bill would increase funding for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigations and double civil penalties for automakers to $70 million. Those changes would be directly tied to the agency adopting changes recommended by Transportation Department inspector general, he said.

“The bill before us today makes a host of important improvements when it comes to motor vehicle safety,” Thune said.

Jail Time

Democrats introduced an amendment that failed on a party-line vote to give NHTSA more funding and allow jail time for executives who hide auto-safety defects.

Some critics said the legislation failed to reflect safety lessons learned from faulty ignition switches in General Motors Co. vehicles and Takata Corp. air bags that exploded and killed motorists.

“This is a tragic and neglectful assault on consumer rights in favor of the auto and trucking industries,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “Sadly, the majority failed to learn the lessons of the GM ignition-switch cover up and Takata’s exploding air bags.”

The legislation approved by the panel would force the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to overhaul one of its primary enforcement tools, a publicly available listing of safety violations of trucking and bus companies, which compares individual firms with industry averages.

The agency would have to remove scores from public view while it responds to critiques from the Government Accountability Office and the Transportation Department’s inspector general. That change has been backed by the trucking industry.

For railroads, the measure would allow the Transportation Department to adjust deadlines for implementing crash-avoiding train technology on a case-by-case basis. Thune said the action was needed because few railroads were going to make the existing 2015 deadline. Installations would be delayed to no later than 2018.

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