900 Rockefeller Building
614 Superior Ave., N.W.
Cleveland, OH 44113
Dear Mr. Blake:
This responds to your letters of April 29 and May 11, 1994, to the Department of Transportation with respect to the importation of replacement parts for a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 280SL that was not originally manufactured to conform to Federal bumper requirements, and which, apparently, was not conformed after importation to comply with those requirements. Your client, who owns such a vehicle, has been informed that "it is illegal to import bumper parts which do not conform to United States crash standards and that accordingly the entire bumper must be replaced . . . ." You have asked whether it is legal to import "European bumper parts" for the vehicle in question, and for us to provide you with citations to appropriate statutes and regulations.
By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues Federal motor vehicle safety standards under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.) and bumper standards under Title I of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act (Cost Savings Act, 15 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.). NHTSA is authorized to issue safety standards and bumper standards for new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle equipment. All motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment manufactured or imported for sale in the United States must comply with all applicable safety standards and bumper standards.
NHTSA has issued one bumper standard, which is set forth at 49 CFR Part 581. The standard was issued under the joint authority of the Safety Act and the Cost Savings Act. While the agency has the authority to issue bumper standards for both passenger motor vehicles and passenger motor vehicle equipment, it has to date only issued a bumper standard for motor vehicles. There is no applicable standard that replacement bumper components must meet, and, because of this, no prohibition against importation of bumper system components which differ from those required for a vehicle to comply with
Part 581. I note that this is reflected in the lack of any provision in our importation regulation, 49 CFR Part 591, requiring conformance of imported bumper parts.
Your second question is whether it is illegal for an owner "to participate in the installation of bumper parts which do not conform to United States standards." As we have seen, no Federal standards apply to replacement bumper parts. This means that it is not illegal for an owner or anyone else to participate in the installation of equipment that is intended to replace original bumper equipment on vehicles that were not manufactured to conform to U.S. bumper requirements. As a matter of interest, our records do not indicate that the importer of the vehicle in question, WDB1070421A026883, failed to conform it to Part 581, but we cannot verify this as the conformance documentation for the vehicle no longer exists.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:581#591#CSA d:6/9/94