Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston , CTV News

The auto industry has had a record number of recalls in 2014, including 41 million Takata airbags recalled due to the hazard of exploding shrapnel and hundreds of thousands of GM faulty ignition switches, linked to more than 100 deaths.

Car dealers are heavily regulated and are not allowed to sell a vehicle with an open safety recall, but as the McLaughlin on Your Side team discovered, the same rules don’t apply to rental cars, and that could impact the safety status of the cars you rent.

Consumer reporter Ross McLaughlin roamed rental car parking lots around Richmond and Vancouver, taking photos of vehicle identification numbers and licence plates. When the information was then run through CARFAX and manufacturers’ websites, several safety recalls appeared, with defects that could increase the risk of a crash.

Follow-up calls to the manufacturer of the vehicle confirmed the safety issues of the cars he found on the lot.

“If it doesn’t turn off like you expect it to and someone were to put it into shift out of park, it could move unintentionally,” said a Ford Canada customer service representative.

A Ford Escape being rented by Avis showed two open recalls: one for an ignition problem that could inadvertently leave the engine running when turned off, resulting in “unintended vehicle movement” and another for the instrument warning systems, meaning warning systems may not work, “increasing the risk of a crash.”

In an email to CTV Vancouver, Transport Canada said “these recalls address either a defect or a non-compliance condition that affects or is likely to affect safety.”

It wasn’t just the Avis rental vehicle that showed a problem. When the McLaughlin on Your Side team ran the licence plate and VIN on another 2015 Ford Escape at Budget, it also had the recall defect that could leave the engine running.

It too was rented out shortly after McLaughlin discovered the recall.

Budget still had dozens of Ford Escapes with the potentially hazardous open recall until CTV News got involved.

The Budget at the Vancouver International Airport is an independently owned and operated franchise of the Avis Budget Group. The head of customer service there said they were alerted to the problem after the McLaughlin team started asking Avis questions.

Budget pulled 40 Ford Escapes in the Vancouver area to be fixed, a repair that takes about an hour.

As for the vehicle Avis was renting, an employee at the YVR rental office said vehicles with safety recalls are removed from the fleet. The company’s head office confirmed that.

In an email to CTV News,Avis stated that when there is a recall it identifies the affected vehicles in its fleet and places them “on a ‘hard hold’ in the reservations system,” meaning they are not rented out until fixed.

It also said the safety problem involving the ignition on this Escape was fixed in early August. When McLaughlin followed up with Ford Canada on the phone it confirmed the recall had been posted as completed the day after CTV brought it to the attention of Avis.

Ford Canada told us it’s possible there could have been a delay from the dealer reporting the repair. However, McLaughlin confirmed the other safety issue involving the warning systems was still an open recall. But Avis told CTV News it will wait until it gets a notice from the manufacturer before taking it off the line.

For more recall information or to check a vehicle online visit Transport Canada’s recall page.

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