Mr. Michael J. Gidding
Brown & Gidding
3201 New Mexico Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Dear Mr. Gidding:
This responds to your e-mail inquiry asking whether we would consider a rechargeable electric air pump manufactured by your client, Intex Recreation Corporation, to be an item of motor vehicle equipment under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act), 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301. As explained below, our answer is no.
The Intex pump is a small, electronic, portable air pump that appears to be primarily used to inflate or deflate air mattresses and other similar inflatable items. The product can be powered by either: (a) plugging a power cord into a household 110-120 volt AC electrical outlet; (b) attaching a 12 volt DC power cord into a 12 Volt DC "automobile cigarette lighter or accessory outlet" (the pump includes a 12-volt DC adaptor that is designed for use with a vehicles cigarette lighter); or (c) using rechargeable batteries that are recharged by plugging the pump into the household 110-120 Volt AC outlet. There is no indication that the pump may be used to inflate a tire. My understanding is that the pump is sold by Wal-Mart and by some camping stores.
We understand that at an earlier point in time, the product literature included an instruction that the rechargeable battery could be recharged by attaching the pump to the vehicles cigarette lighter outlet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was informed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that there have been two complaints that allege that the pumps rechargeable batteries exploded while the pump was being charged by way of the vehicle cigarette lighter. No injuries were reported. As a result of these reports, Intex revised its instructions to indicate that the pump may only be charged or recharged by household 110-120 AC voltage only. The instructions also state: "Do not charge pump with DC power cord," and "Do not charge/recharge with DC power source."
The term "motor vehicle equipment" is defined in the Safety Act as (49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(7)):
(A) any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured;
(B) any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as an accessory or addition to a motor vehicle [emphasis added]; or
(C) any device or an article or apparel (except medicine or eyeglasses prescribed by a licensed practitioner) that is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle and is manufactured, sold, delivered, offered, or intended to be used only to safeguard motor vehicles and highway users against risk of accident, injury, or death.
The agency uses two criteria in determining whether an item is an "accessory" under the Safety Act. The first criterion is whether a substantial portion of the expected use of the item is related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. The second is whether the product is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles. If a product satisfies both criteria, then the product would be an accessory. In determining a products expected use, NHTSA considers product advertising, product labeling, and the type of store that retails the product, as well as available information about the actual use of the product.
Although Intexs pump is depicted on its packaging material and instructions as being used in motor vehicles and includes as a standard feature a 12-volt adapter enabling its use in a vehicle, we do not conclude that a substantial portion of the expected use of the pump is related to the operation or maintenance of a motor vehicle. The pump is not exclusively powered by the vehicles automobile lighter. It has two other power sources which enable its use by a consumer outside the vehicle. In addition, the pump only functions to inflate items such as air mattresses. This function (inflating air mattresses and the like) does not constitute a suitable nexus to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. That is, there is hardly a nexus between the pump and the operation, maintenance, care, ease of or enhanced use of a vehicle. Because the first prong of the two-part test for an accessory is not met, we conclude that the Intex pump is not an item of motor vehicle equipment.
We note that the Intex pump is a consumer product subject to regulation by the CPSC. We are informing CPSC of the outcome of this letter.