NHTSA Report Number DOT HS 809 834December 2004

Cost and Weight Added by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Model Years 1968-2001 in Passenger Cars and Light Trucks

Marcia J. Tarbet

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Abstract

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began to evaluate the cost of its Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in 1975. The agency's contractors perform detailed engineering "teardown" analyses, for representative samples of vehicles, to estimate how much specific FMVSS add to the weight and the retail price of a vehicle. This process is also known as "reverse engineering." By July 2004, NHTSA and its contractors had evaluated virtually all the cost-and weight-adding technologies introduced by 2001 in passenger cars and light trucks (including pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, minivans, and full-size vans) in response to the FMVSS. The agency is now ready to estimate the cost and weight added by all the FMVSS, and by each individual FMVSS, to model year 2001 passenger cars and light trucks, and also in all earlier model years, back to 1968. NHTSA estimates that the FMVSS added an average of $839 (in 2002 dollars) and 125 pounds to the average passenger car in model year 2001. Approximately four percent of the cost and four percent of the weight of a new passenger car could be attributed to the FMVSS. An average of $711 (in 2002 dollars) and 86 pounds was added to the average light truck in model year 2001. Approximately three percent of the cost and two percent of the weight of a new truck could be attributed to the FMVSS.

Executive Summary

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for new motor vehicles and equipment to reduce the number of crashes and the risk of deaths and injuries.The 100-series FMVSS are crash avoidance standards, the 200-series regulates crashworthiness, while the 300-, 400- and 500-series address the risk of fires, hazards during normal operation, and certain special vehicles. 

Manufacturers of new vehicles and equipment must conform and certify compliance to the FMVSS.  The initial FMVSS went into effect on January 1, 1968.

NHTSA began to evaluate the cost of the FMVSS in 1975.  The agency’s contractors perform detailed engineering “teardown” analyses, for representative samples of vehicles, to estimate how much specific FMVSS add to the weight and the retail price of a vehicle.  These analyses employ a process known as “reverse engineering.”  Whereas conventional engineering proceeds from design and raw materials to mass-produced product, reverse engineering includes a step-by-step teardown or disassembly of each finished item into sub-assemblies and finally into individual component parts.  The contractor weighs the components, identifies the type, unit cost and amount of raw material needed, and estimates the labor, variable burden, and tooling required to produce individual components and assemble them.  In addition to these direct variable costs, the contractor estimates the mark-ups to the consumer’s full cost.

By July 2004, NHTSA and its contractors had evaluated virtually all the cost- and weight-adding technologies introduced by 2001 in passenger cars and light trucks (including pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, minivans, and full-size vans) in response to the FMVSS.  The agency is now ready to estimate the cost and weight added by all the FMVSS, and by each individual FMVSS, to model year 2001 passenger cars and light trucks, and also in all earlier model years, back to 1968.  All costs are estimated in 2002 dollars.  Upon publication of this report, NHTSA will also make available to the public all the contractor studies completed to date.

The cost of a FMVSS, in this report, includes the cost of all equipment added or modified primarily for the purpose of meeting (or even exceeding) the requirements of the standard, provided these modifications took place on or after the effective date, or even before the effective date if NHTSA had a rulemaking process underway and there was a clear anticipation of the standard.  (But if safety equipment was already in place well before any rulemaking process, and was not modified in response to any FMVSS, its cost will not be attributed to the FMVSS.)  The cost of a FMVSS is the incremental cost over the equipment that was there before the standard and likely would have remained there without the standard.  In addition, the cost of a FMVSS may change over time, as a result of more efficient design, new types of materials, or vehicle downsizing (if the weight of the equipment is proportional to the weight of the vehicle).

The report does not include technologies so recent that NHTSA has not yet completed its cost analysis, such as side air bags and head air bags.  Furthermore, the report is limited to passenger cars and light trucks; the cost of FMVSS in heavy trucks, buses or motorcycles has not been estimated.

The Cost and Weight Added by the FMVSS in Model Year 2001.  NHTSA estimates that the FMVSS added an average of $839 (in 2002 dollars) and 125 pounds to the average passenger car in model year 2001.  Since passenger cars cost an average of $21,217 (in 2002 dollars) and weighed 3,148 pounds in model year 2001, approximately four percent of the cost and four percent of the weight of a new passenger car could be attributed to the FMVSS.  An average of $711 (in 2002 dollars) and 86 pounds was added to the average light truck in model year 2001.  With light trucks costing an average of $23,995 (in 2002 dollars) and weighing 4,238 pounds in model year 2001, approximately three percent of the cost and two percent of the weight of a new truck could be attributed to the FMVSS.[1]  Table 1 itemizes the cost and weight added by the FMVSS, or by specific safety technologies associated with these FMVSS, to passenger cars and light trucks in model year 2001.

 

TABLE 1

COST (IN 2002 DOLLARS) AND WEIGHT (IN POUNDS)

ADDED BY THE FMVSS IN MODEL YEAR 2001[2]

 

 

FMVSS

 

DESCRIPTION

PASSENGER CARS

LIGHT TRUCKS

COST

WEIGHT

COST

WEIGHT

 

104

Windshield Wipers and Washers

 

 

Dual speed wipers, washers

 

 

$15.05

2.10

105

Hydraulic Brake System

 

 

Dual master cylinders

$10.88

0.95

11.00

0.96

108

Lamps

 

 

Side marker lamps

29.37

1.95

29.37

1.95

 

Center high mounted stop lamps

9.74

0.85

9.74

0.85

118

Power-Operated Window

 

 

Circuit breaker

0.78

0.03

0.77

0.03

124

Accelerator Control System

0.47

0.02

0.47

0.02

 

201

Occupant Protection in Interior Impact (1968/1981 Standard)

 

 

Seat back padding

4.44

0.66

11.25

3.15

202

Head Restraints

30.89

5.63

30.97

3.98

 

203/204

Occupant Protection from the Steering Control System

 

27.45

 

1.89

 

27.45

 

1.89

207

Seating Systems

 

 

Seat back locks

3.22

0.79

 

 

208

Occupant Crash Protection

 

 

Safety belts

124.63

18.38

137.57

18.41

 

Dual air bags

396.72

26.76

382.52

26.40

 

On/off switches

 

 

8.75

0.20

214

Side Impact Protection

 

 

Static test

51.21

24.81

29.44

23.76

 

Dynamic test

129.35

37.31

 

 

216

Roof Crush Resistance

3.47

2.93

 

 

301

Fuel System Integrity

16.51

2.48

16.51

2.48

 

TOTAL

$839.13

125.44

$710.86

86.18

Those technologies that contributed most significantly to the cost and weight of a passenger car and light truck in 2001 are:

Historical trend of the cost and weight added by the FMVSS for model years 1968-2001The initial FMVSS of 1968 added $169 and 18 pounds to the average passenger car in model year 1968.  By model year 2001, the cost had grown to $839 (in constant, 2002 dollars) and the weight to 125 pounds.  In light trucks, the cost and weight of the FMVSS grew from $107 and 11 pounds in 1968 to $711 and 86 pounds in 2001.  Table 2 shows the cost and weight added by the FMVSS in vehicles of each model year from 1968 to 2001.

TABLE 2

COST (IN 2002 DOLLARS) AND WEIGHT (IN POUNDS)

ADDED BY THE FMVSS FOR MODEL YEARS 1968-2001

 

MODEL

YEAR

PASSENGER CARS

LIGHT TRUCKS

COST

WEIGHT

COST

WEIGHT

 

1968

$169.24

  18.39

$106.58

10.51

1969

$216.05

  33.15

$106.64

10.52

1970

$236.02

  40.21

$115.95

11.07

1971

$241.47

  43.35

$116.24

11.10

1972

$268.24

  49.82

$142.26

15.90

1973

$291.23

  63.09

$154.61

16.75

1974

$301.97

  70.48

$160.79

17.59

1975

$299.54

  68.64

$160.87

17.61

1976

$312.58

  69.07

$162.27

17.71

1977

$306.66

  66.68

$173.14

19.02

1978

$302.85

  64.41

$189.14

21.46

1979

$299.58

  62.33

$191.06

21.59

1980

$298.26

  62.33

$195.96

21.96

1981

$297.87

  61.33

$196.63

22.02

1982

$297.25

  60.72

$206.92

23.68

1983

$297.61

  60.38

$212.12

24.35

1984

$297.66

  60.42

$214.28

24.61

1985

$298.29

  60.24

$216.33

24.88

1986

$299.50

  60.20

$216.81

24.94

1987

$338.32

  63.14

$233.52

27.23

1988

$380.42

  66.84

$232.58

27.12

1989

$421.31

  70.18

$232.42

27.20

1990

$596.71

  82.02

$236.15

27.70

1991

$593.10

  80.13

$250.26

30.45

1992

$607.59

  79.76

$294.29

34.70

1993

$650.01

  82.76

$308.55

36.81

1994

$752.09

  93.66

$389.49

60.69

1995

$777.93

  99.96

$547.71

72.67

1996

$782.84

104.50

$612.52

77.53

1997

$838.81

125.34

$658.58

81.79

1998

$839.18

125.47

$705.27

85.73

1999

$839.16

125.46

$708.22

85.93

2000

$839.29

125.51

$709.39

86.04

2001

$839.13

125.44

$710.86

86.18

The safety technologies installed in passenger cars by model year 1968, responding to the initial FMVSS of January 1, 1968, included lap/shoulder or lap belts at all seat positions, energy-absorbing steering assemblies, dual master cylinders, and seat back locks, among others.  In addition, model year 1968 passenger cars were equipped with side marker lamps, anticipating a requirement that would take effect on January 1, 1969.  These technologies added $169 (in 2002 dollars) and 18 pounds to model year 1968 passenger cars.

By model year 1974, cost had increased to $302 and weight to 70 pounds.  Side door beams were installed in response to the original static crush requirement of FMVSS 214.  Front-outboard seats were equipped with head restraints.  Safety belts were substantially upgraded: drivers and right-front passengers received integral 3-point belts with locking retractors, and rear-outboard lap belts were equipped with retractors.

Cost and weight in passenger cars changed little from 1974 to 1986, as no major new FMVSS went into effect.

Cost increased from $300 in 1986 to $752 in 1994, and weight from 60 to 94 pounds, primarily due to the automatic occupant protection requirements of FMVSS 208.  The increase was gradual over that time period.  Automatic protection was phased in from model year 1987 to 1990.  Then, especially in 1991-94, manufacturers shifted to more effective, but more expensive types of automatic protection: from automatic belts, to driver air bags, to dual frontal air bags.

The dynamic crash test requirement of FMVSS 214 phased in a substantial upgrading and padding of side structures during 1994-97.  The total cost of the FMVSS increased to $839, and their weight to 125 pounds by 2001.

Most of the FMVSS were extended from passenger cars to light trucks, but only after they had been in effect on passenger cars for some years.  Many safety technologies were installed in light trucks later than in passenger cars, typically after they had been required in passenger cars but before the FMVSS were extended to light trucks.  In model year 1968, safety equipment added $107 and 11 pounds to light trucks.  However, most of this equipment, including lap belts and dual master cylinders, was not actually required by the FMVSS in trucks at that time, only in passenger cars.

Cost had increased to $189 by 1978 and weight to 21 pounds.  By then, most light trucks had been equipped with 3-point belts and retractors at the front-outboard positions and energy-absorbing steering assemblies.  Cost continued to increase gradually to $250 in 1991, and weight to 30 pounds, as more of the basic FMVSS were extended to light trucks.

The installation of frontal air bags for drivers in 1992-96, and the addition of passenger air bags in 1994-98 increased the total cost of the FMVSS in light trucks to $711 and their weight to 86 pounds by 2001.



[1] The average cost of the 2001 passenger cars and light trucks are based on the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).  The MSRP cost for the 2001 passenger car and light truck does not include price reductions such as rebates or incentives offered by the dealer and/or the manufacturer, nor does it include price additions such as added charges and optional features.

[2] Average cost and weight per model year 2001 vehicle.  For example, if a safety device costs $100 and 50% of the vehicles are equipped with it; the average cost per vehicle is $50.

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