Last year, Enterprise Rent-A-Car (which includes Alamo and National) gave a statement saying that the company’s policy is to not rent out recalled vehicles until the proper repairs and/or replacements are performed if they involve “the risk of sudden loss of control, safety-restraint failures or fire hazards” and that other recalls are “addressed as soon as possible” according to Laura Bryant, a spokeswoman for Enterprise. This statement, however, contradicts the fact that Enterprise had recently admitted in court that two women died in a Chrysler PT Cruiser rented by the company when it caught fire and crashed as a direct result of Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s failure to fix the recalled vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a major investigation shortly there after when the Federal Trade Commission was asked by the consumer group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) and by the Center for Auto Safety to order Enterprise to start fixing recalled vehicles before renting them.

NHTSA began by requesting Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler corporation to provide details on how quickly certain recalled vehicles were fixed by rental agencies. The information provided by the manufacturers showed that in some cases months went by without any repairs being preformed on defective vehicles.

NHTSA is now demanding that major rental car companies provide details regarding their safety operations, saying it expected “rental car companies to provide safe cars to their customers by submitting the recalled vehicles to the appropriate manufacturers for the appropriate safety repairs in a timely fashion.” In late March, NHTSA sent letters to Hertz, Avis, Dollar Thrifty and Enterprise requesting specific questions designed to get at the heart of how recalls are being handled.

The rental car companies have been asked to respond within three weeks. Unfortunately, there is a loop-hole: NHTSA does not have the autority to force rental car companies to comply any more than it can force consumers to repair their own vehicles. That is where we come in.