Ms. Susana Mate
Trade Commission of Spain, Embassy of Spain
500 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60611
Dear Ms. Mate:
This responds to your inquiry to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking for information about the Federal requirements that would apply to an inflatable seat for children from 9 months to 7 years of age manufactured by an overseas company you represent. At this time, you are unable to provide much information about the product, but you state that the restraint has been certified as complying with European ECE Regulation 44.
By way of background, NHTSA administers Federal safety requirements for the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles and items of new motor vehicle equipment. We are authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards to reduce highway crashes and deaths and injuries resulting from crashes (49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq.). Under that authority, we issued Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems (49 CFR 571.213), which sets forth requirements which must be met by any device designed for use in a motor vehicle to restrain, seat or position children who weigh 65 pounds or less. (We currently are considering a proposal to increase this weight limit to 80 pounds. See the enclosed August 31, 2005 Federal Register document (70 FR 51720).)
The inflatable car seat is a child restraint system subject to the requirements of Standard No. 213. The standard requires, among other things, that child restraints provide protection in a 30 mile-per-hour (mph) crash, that the restraint meet the flammability resistance requirements of Standard No. 302, that the belts and buckles meet certain performance requirements, and that the manufacturer provide detailed instructions on the proper use of the restraint. (The standards are available online at: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/).
Every child restraint system for use in motor vehicles sold in or imported into the United States must be certified as complying with Standard No. 213. The United States does not follow the European practice of requiring the manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment to deliver the
equipment to specified institutes for testing before the product can be sold. For our purposes, the manufacturer itself must certify that the child restraint system fully satisfies all requirements of Standard No. 213. Further, this agency does not require that the manufacturer's certification be based on a specified number of tests. Although we recommend that a manufacturer selling child restraint systems in the United States test the systems according to the test procedures specified in the standard, it is up to the individual manufacturer to determine what data, test results, or other information it needs to enable it to validly certify that its child restraint systems comply with Standard No. 213. Once a manufacturer determines that its child restraints meet the requirements of Standard No. 213, it certifies that compliance by labeling that certification onto the child restraint, as specified in Standard No. 213.
For purposes of enforcement, this agency conducts validation checks of child restraints after they have been certified as complying with Standard No. 213, by purchasing and testing the child restraints according to the procedures specified in the standard. If the restraints pass the tests, no further steps are taken. If the child restraints fail the test and are determined not to comply with Standard No. 213, the manufacturer of the child restraint is subject to the recall responsibilities of our statute (49 U.S.C. 30120). Manufacturers must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects. Our statute specifies that, in the case of a child restraint which fails to comply with Standard No. 213 or contains a safety‑related defect, the manufacturer must notify purchasers and either:
l. repair the child restraint, so that the defect or noncompliance is removed; or
2. replace the child restraint with an identical or reasonably equivalent child restraint which does not have the defect or noncompliance.
Whichever of these options is chosen, the child restraint manufacturer must bear the expense and cannot charge the child restraint owner for the remedy. The manufacturer is also subject to civil penalties.
There are also two procedural regulations that your client must meet to import child restraints into the United States. The first is 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification. This regulation requires a manufacturer (including an importer) of motor vehicle equipment to submit its name, address, and a brief description of the equipment it manufactures (or imports) to this agency within 30 days of the date the child restraints are first manufactured (imported into the United States).
The second regulation is 49 CFR Part 551, Procedural Rules. Section 551.45 requires the actual manufacturer of foreign‑manufactured child restraints to designate a permanent resident of the United States as the manufacturer's agent for service of process in this country. The designation of the agent for the service of process must contain the following six items in order to be valid under 551.45:
1. A certification that the designation is valid in form and binding on the manufacturer under the laws, corporate by‑laws, or other requirements governing the making of the designation at the time and place where it is made;
2. The full legal name, principal place of business, and mailing address of the manufacturer;
3. Marks, trade names, or other designations of the origin of any of the manufacturer's products which do not bear its name;
4. A statement that the designation shall remain in effect until withdrawn or replaced by the manufacturer;
5. A declaration of acceptance duly signed by the agent appointed, which may be an individual, a firm, or a U.S. corporation; and
6. The full legal name and address of the designated agent.
In addition, the designation must be signed by one with authority to appoint the agent, and the signer's name and title should be clearly indicated beneath his or her signature. This designation should be mailed to the address shown in section 551.45(b).
I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes the responsibilities of manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. In addition, enclosed for your convenience is a copy of a June 7, 2006 final rule that amended the webbing strength requirements of Standard No. 213 (71 FR 32855), and a copy of a June 21, 2006 technical amendment relating to the standards labeling requirements. Standard No. 213 is frequently amended and manufacturers are responsible for keeping current on its requirements.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke