Mr. Randy Lee Newton, #1241748
P.O. Box 16, Eastham Unit
Lovelady, TX 75851-0016
Dear Mr. Newton:
This responds to your letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking for a description of the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 302, Flammability of interior materials, and whether the standard applied to the 1995 Chrysler LeBaron components you described.
By way of background, NHTSA is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, Congress has established a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards.
Standard 302 (copy enclosed) applies to new completed vehicles, and sets forth burn resistance requirements for materials used in the occupant compartment in order to reduce deaths and injuries associated with vehicle fires, especially those originating in the interior of the vehicle.
The standard mandates that certain listed components and materials, when included as original equipment with the vehicle, be burn-resistant. These items covered under the standard are (see S4.1 of Standard 302):
Seat cushions, seat backs, seat belts, headlining, convertible tops, arm rests, all trim panels including door, front, rear, and side panels, compartment shelves, head restraints, floor coverings, sun visors, curtains, shades, wheel housing covers, engine compartment covers, mattress covers, and any other interior materials, including padding and crash-deployed elements, that are designed to absorb energy on contact by occupants in the event of a crash.
Of those items, the standard specifies that not just the outer surfaces, but any portion of material that is within 13 mm of the occupant compartment must comply with the burn-resistant requirements (S4.2).
In your letter, you ask if the front seats, dash-board, inside door panels, and the canvas-type convertible top of a 1995 Chrysler LeBaron were made of fire-retardant materials. As all of those portions of the car are listed in S4.1 of the standard, they were subject to the burn-resistant requirements of Standard 302 if they were installed as original equipment. The original manufacturer of the vehicle had to certify that the vehicle met all applicable FMVSSs, including Standard 302. Standard 302 applied to the vehicle because the standard has been in effect since the early 1970s. Under our statute, each vehicle manufactured on or after the effective date of a standard must comply with the requirements of the standard. Further, S3 of Standard 302 makes its requirements applicable to passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses, and your vehicle is a passenger car.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Ari Scott at (202) 366-2992.