Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the nation's largest private buyer of new cars and seller of used ones, chose to "delete" a standard safety feature from thousands of Chevrolet Impala fleet vehicles, saving millions of dollars.
After the company rented out those 2006-08 model vehicles, Enterprise and countless dealers nationwide offered them for sale on the open market &mash; minus the side-curtain air bags that have been shown to dramatically reduce highway deaths.
What's more, a Kansas City Star investigation found that hundreds of Impalas already sold were incorrectly advertised on Enterprise's Web site as having the very head-protecting feature that the rental company opted to exclude on General Motors’ factory floor.
"I've never seen a standard safety feature removed from a vehicle," said Sean Kane, who heads Safety Research & Strategies Inc. in Rehoboth, Mass. "That's what's so unique about this. I've been doing this work for 17 years and, until now, had yet to see this happen."
Enterprise officials defended their decision to delete the side air bags on roughly 66,000 Impalas as one that did not violate any federal mandate. That decision saved the company $175 on each Impala, which would total about $11.5 million.