Search Interpretations


    Mr. Jim Kaplan
    Cornell Dubilier
    140 Technology Place
    Liberty, SC 29657

    Dear Mr. Kaplan:

    This responds to your letter asking a number of questions about the regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as applied to your manufacture of pickup truck assemblies. You explain that you want to provide purchasers "all steel cars, with steel panels and steel frames including all the wiring and subassemblies needed for driving with the exception of the drive train". You also explain that you "would like to be able to provide the drive train processing service to the purchaser saving them the trouble of going to two different companies for their finished vehicle".

    By way of background, NHTSA has the authority to establish regulations for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, "the Safety Act". ) The Safety Act defines "motor vehicle" in part as a vehicle that is "driven by mechanical power" (49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(6)). The Safety Act defines "manufacturer" as a person "manufacturing or assembling motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment; or.importing motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment for resale". 49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(5).

    We have stated in past interpretation letters that a unit would be considered only an assemblage of motor vehicle equipment, and not a motor vehicle, until such time as a power source is added. (July 9, 1993, letter to Christopher Banner, copy enclosed. ) We have also stated in past interpretation letters that, if an unassembled vehicle were sold with all of the parts needed to produce a completed vehicle, we would treat the unassembled vehicle as a motor vehicle for purposes of our regulations. (See February 16, 2005, letter to Kevin Alsop, copy enclosed. )

    If you did not provide the drive train, you would not be considered as selling a motor vehicle. However, you describe an arrangement in which you would charge the purchaser the total price of the vehicle with a processing fee and engine installation fee. You would have the vehicle sent to the engine installer, and would pay the engine installer its fee for installing the engine. The engine installer would then send the vehicle back to you so the purchaser could pick it up from you. We believe that in this situation, you are providing the power source with the assemblage. You are charging the customer for the complete truck, and the engine installer appears to be akin to just a subcontractor to your company. Accordingly, in this situation, we would consider the unassembled vehicle to be a "motor vehicle" and you to be a motor vehicle manufacturer.

    Your first several questions ask about parties responsibilities for complying with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs). Under the Safety Act, manufacturers of motor vehicles have the responsibility to certify that their vehicles comply with all applicable FMVSSs. Note that under 49 CFR 567.4(g)(1)(ii):

    If a vehicle is fabricated and delivered in complete but unassembled form, such that it is designed to be assembled without special machinery or tools, the fabricator of the vehicle may affix the [certification] label and name itself as the manufacturer[. ](Emphasis added.)

    Your fourth question asked, "Can I provide a vehicle identification number (VIN) for registration purposes?If so, who would provide that, us or the installer?"As the vehicle manufacturer, your company is responsible for assigning VINs to the trucks, and must ensure that the trucks meet all VIN requirements specified in 49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number Requirements.

    Your last question asked about supplying a warranty for the vehicle. Our regulations do not govern this issue.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at 202-366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel