In 1984, the Motor Vehicle Theft Law Enforcement Act was created. It added Title VI to the Motor Vehicle and Information Cost Savings Act (recodified as Chapter 331 of Title 49, United States Code). As a means to prevent the theft of motor vehicles for their parts, the 1984 Theft Act required passenger cars and the major replacement parts for those cars to have vehicle identification numbers. This act required the Secretary of Transportation to complete a number of rulemaking actions targeted to reduce and deter motor vehicle theft. These rulemaking actions established standards for selecting high-theft cars and for identifying which parts of these high-theft cars should be marked with the vehicle identification number. Future rulemakings required compilation of theft rates for passenger cars, and for insurance companies to provide the Federal Government with data on their theft and recovery experience.

On October 24, 1985, NHTSA published the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, 49 CFR Part 541. The purpose of this standard is to reduce motor vehicle theft by assisting law enforcement authorities trace and recover the parts from stolen vehicles. The standard requires manufacturers to inscribe or attach the vehicle identification number (VIN) onto major parts of vehicles identified by the agency as likely high-theft car lines. This standard became effective beginning with the 1987 model year and required that selected high-theft car lines have 12 (two door models) or 14 (four door models) of its major component parts-marked with the V.I.N. Each vehicle in a high-theft line must have its major parts and major replacement parts-marked unless the vehicle line is granted an exemption from the parts-marking requirements. The vehicle can be exempted if an antitheft device has been installed as standard equipment on the entire line.

As a result of an increase in motor vehicle thefts and associated crimes, the Anti Car Theft Act of 1992 (the 1992 Theft Act), was created. The 1992 Theft Act identified carjackings and owning or operating a chop shop as Federal crimes carrying with them stiff criminal penalties. The 1992 Theft Act amended the Theft Prevention Standard by extending the Federal parts-marking requirements to include light-duty trucks and multipurpose passenger vehicles (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 6,000 pounds or less). On December 13, 1994, the final rule amending the Theft Prevention Standard was published. This December 1994 rulemaking extended the parts-marking requirements: (a) to include multipurpose passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks; (b) listed the major component parts and replacement parts to be marked for each of the classes of vehicles such as the engine, transmission, front/rear bumper, right/left front fender, hood, right/left front door, right/left rear door, sliding or cargo door(s), right/left quarter panel (passenger cars), right/left side assembly (MPVs), pickup box, and/or cargo box (light-duty trucks), rear doors, decklid or hatchback and tailgate; and (c) established a new median theft rate (3.5826) for all passenger motor vehicles. This amendment became effective beginning with MY 1997 vehicles.

On August 28, 1985, NHTSA published the Procedures for Selecting Lines to Be Covered by The Theft Prevention Standard, 49 CFR Part 542. This August 1985 regulation established procedures to determine which passenger motor vehicle lines (passenger cars only) are covered by the Theft Prevention Standard. These procedures require automobile manufacturers to provide the agency with information necessary to select whether a new vehicle introduced for sale into the United States is likely to be a high-theft line and subject to the parts-marking requirements. On April 26, 1994, this regulation was amended to apply to all passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks (rated at 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or less).

On September 8, 1987, NHTSA published the regulation entitled Exemption from the Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, 49 CFR Part 543. This regulation encourages the installation of antitheft devices as standard equipment in factory delivered motor vehicles. This rule allows for exemption from the parts-marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard. A manufacturer may petition for exemption of a high-theft vehicle line when it plans to install a standard equipment antitheft device on the entire line. The agency must determine that the antitheft device to be installed on the line is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as parts-marking. On March 8, 1994, this regulation was amended to limit the number of high-theft lines that could be exempted per model year.

On April 6, 2004, NHTSA published a Final Rule extending the anti-theft parts-marking requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, CFR Part 541. This regulation expands NHTSA’s current anti-theft parts-marking requirement to include: (1) all below median theft rate passenger cars and multipurpose passenger vehicles (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 6,000 pounds or less), and (2) below median theft rate light-duty trucks with major parts that are interchangeable with passenger motor vehicles subject to parts-marking. This Final Rule is effective September 1, 2006.

On May 19, 2005, NHTSA published a Final Rule responding to petitions for reconsideration of the new rule extending the anti-theft parts-marking requirements. This Final Rule made the following changes and clarifications to the agency’s expanded parts-marking requirements: (1) manufacturers are no longer required to submit “likely theft rate determinations” for vehicle lines introduced prior to the September 1, 2006, effective date, if the manufacturers choose to voluntarily mark the new vehicle lines immediately after their introduction; (2) manufacturers are permitted to petition the agency to exempt low-theft vehicle lines equipped with antitheft devices from the parts-marking requirements beginning with model year 2006; (3) vehicle lines with annual production of not more than 3,500 vehicles are excluded from the parts-marking requirements; and (4) the agency adopted a phase-in of the new parts-marking requirements over a two-year period.

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