One of the nation’s leading rental car companies recently ordered thousands of cars without side impact airbags in an attempt to save millions of dollars, then later sold the cars to buyers without the standard safety feature, according to a report from the Kansas City Star.
According to the report, Enterprise Rent-A-Car ordered a fleet of Chevy Impalas without the side impact airbags between 2006 and 2008. Although Chevy sells Impalas with that type of air bag as standard equipment, the buyer has the option to opt out of it, which Enterprise apparently did.
After renting out the vehicles, the Star learned that St. Louis-based Enterprise turned around and sold the used vehicles on their Web site, but failed to make clear that the Impalas were missing the air bags.
Enterprise defended their decision to opt out of the air bags, noting that the safety feature is not yet required by the federal government. According to the Star, the decision saved Enterprise $11.5 million on the roughly 66,000 vehicles. Enterprise also said they are not the only company to buy fleets of cars without side impact air bags.
But according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studies have shown that side air bags with head protection can reduce highway deaths by up to 45 percent. An estimated 8,000 people were killed in side-impact collisions in 2007 alone, the Star reported.
And while Enterprise apologized and pledged to rectify the situation, the company stopped short of a mea culpa, instead blaming a software glitch for the false advertising.
“In some circumstances a software glitch caused us to describe them incorrectly as having air bags [on our Web site]. When we found out, we immediately fixed the problem,” said Christy Conrad, vice president of corporate communications for Enterprise.
Conrad estimated that 745 of the Impalas were sold nationwide, and the company is “reaching out to those customers and offering to buy the cars back for $750 above Kelly Blue Book value,” or “$200 to compensate for the missing option” if the buyers choose to keep the car.
FOXNews.com’s Steve Centanni contributed to this report.