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003453rbm--June 6

    Stephan J. Speth, Director
    Vehicle Compliance & Safety Affairs
    DaimlerChrysler Corporation
    800 Chrysler Drive CIMS 482-00-91
    Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2757


    Dear Mr. Speth:

    This responds to your recent correspondence regarding the use of the Cosco Dream Ride car bed in conducting tests for the advanced air bag requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, Occupant crash protection (FMVSS No. 208). S19 of FMVSS No. 208 requires that a manufacturer certifying compliance with the advanced air bag requirements for infants through automatic suppression certify that the passenger air bag will suppress when tested with any child restraint listed in Subparts A, B and C of Appendix A to the standard. The Cosco car bed is currently the only restraint listed in Subpart A of the appendix. You state in your letter that the car bed does not fit in the front passenger seat of one of your vehicles. You also state that this problem is likely to be encountered with other models of vehicles. Accordingly, you have requested an interpretation stating that compliance with S19 is not required for a child seat that cannot reasonably be installed at any seat track position without contacting the interior of the vehicle. We have determined that manufacturer certification is not required with respect to any child restraint that cannot be placed in the vehicle at any seating position without significant contact with the vehicle interior as described below.

    On May 12, 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a final rule requiring advanced air bags in all passenger cars, multi-purpose passenger vehicles, buses and light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 lb or less starting September 1, 2003 (65 FR 30680). Several of the issues raised in your letter were discussed, either directly, or by analogy, in the preamble of that final rule.

    In your letter, you explain that the Cosco car bed cannot be installed in a manner that allows for the proper placement of the car bed. In the full forward and full rearward seat track positions, the door of the vehicle cannot be closed. In the mid-track position, the door can be closed, but only by pushing the interior edge of the car bed against the

    gear shift, such that you believe a driver would be unable to operate the vehicle. Even at this position, you note that the car bed must be placed at an angle that is inconsistent with the restraint manufacturer's installation instructions. Additionally, because of the placement of the car bed against the gear shift, the occupant classification system detects an empty seat and the telltale indicator does not illuminate. Because the occupant classification system defaults to air bag suppression if the system reads the seat as empty, the air bag would suppress if the car bed were placed in the seat. You go on to state that the Cosco car bed is no longer in production and that no other car beds are currently distributed for sale in the U.S. market. [1]

    The test procedures for S19 are contained in S20 of the standard. Under that provision, if a child restraint contacts the vehicle interior, the vehicle seat is moved rearward until there is no contact. At that point, the vehicle manufacturer must certify compliance with the standard. There is no corollary language in S22 or S24, which provide the test procedures for the three-year-old and six-year-old compliance options.

    The discussion in the preamble related to the "no contact" language of S20.1.2 is limited to contact with a rear facing child restraint and the vehicle dashboard. (See discussion at 65 FR 30711, 30724.) The language was included because we had found in our testing that when some convertible child restraints were tested in their rear facing position with the vehicle seat in a full forward position, the child restraint was either severely tilted or entirely lifted off the seat of some vehicles. We stated that we did not believe parents or caregivers were likely to transport an infant in such a position. Rather, it was our opinion that the vehicle seat would be moved back to accommodate the child restraint. The agency did not anticipate a situation where the width of the child restraint would prevent placement of the restraint without contacting the vehicle interior. Likewise, we did not contemplate a situation where no seat track position could be found that would allow the restraint to be placed in the vehicle without contacting the vehicle interior.

    We will not conduct compliance testing for, and manufacturers will not be required to certify compliance with, S19 when the child restraint's width results in so significant a level of contact with the vehicle interior that one would not reasonably expect a parent or caregiver to place the restraint in the front seat. We will consider the following factors in determining whether to do so: first, whether the placement of the restraint in the seat prevents one from closing the door of the vehicle; second, whether the placement of the restraint prevents the driver from operating the vehicle in a reasonable manner, e.g., because of interference between the restraint and either the gear shift or parking brake; and third, whether the restraint is rotated so that it deviates more than 30 degrees from a longitudinal vertical plane. In deciding to drop a proposed test condition in which the restraint was placed on the seat at a 45-degree angle with that plane, we noted that it was unreasonable to assume that parents would actually place a restraint so markedly out of position. (See discussion at 65 FR 30710-11.)

    Based on the information provided in your letter, it appears that at least two of these factors may be applicable. The inability to close the car door in the full forward and full rearward seat track positions would obviously preclude the use of the car bed in those positions. Likewise, depending on the amount of interference, the gear shift interference could prevent a driver from operating the vehicle with the car bed in the mid-track position. We note that if other seat positions permit reasonable placement of the child restraint, then compliance testing would be performed at these seat positions.

    At this time, we are not deciding that limited contact between a child restraint in Appendix A and the vehicle interior, other than contact between a rear facing child restraint and the dashboard or console, would relieve a vehicle manufacturer from its certification responsibilities with respect to the advanced air bag requirements. Parents or caregivers may use a restraint in the front seat even though there is some contact with the vehicle interior. In those instances, it is appropriate to require manufacturers to certify compliance with the standard using that restraint, and we intend to conduct compliance testing even though there may be some degree of contact.

    I hope this letter addresses your concerns. Please feel free to contact Rebecca MacPherson of my staff at (202) 366-2992 should you have any additional questions.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    ref:208
    d.6/9/03



    [1] Cosco has informed NHTSA that the Dream Ride car bed has not been discontinued. Rather, it is manufactured only when someone places an order for it.