James C. Morton, Jr., Vice Chairman
Nissan North America, Inc.
Government Affairs Office
196 Van Buren Street, Suite 450
Herndon, VA 20170-5345
Dear Mr. Morton:
This responds to your letter asking for an interpretation of one-piece instrument panels and console assemblies under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 201, Occupant Protection in Interior Impact. Specifically, you asked whether certain indicated seams would determine where the instrument panel ends and the center console begins. Seams do not necessarily denote where the instrument panel begins and the console assembly ends. However, as discussed below, we have interpreted where we believe the rearmost surface of the instrument panel is situated on your vehicle.
Your letter describes a one-piece design, where the instrument panel and the console assembly are attached to the floor and form a one-piece, contiguous, T-shaped design, extending rearward between the driver and passenger seats. In the diagrams included with your letter, you indicated two seams (one in Example A and the other in Example B) which you believe constitute the upper edge of the center console and the lower edge of the dashboard. You state that because S5.1.1(a) of FMVSS No. 201 excludes console assemblies from the head impact protection requirements of the standard, you believe that areas below the seam are not subject to the head impact protection requirements.
In the past, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declined to pick the dividing line between the instrument panel and the console in one-piece assemblies. In previous interpretations regarding this issue, we have instead used the language from S5.1.1(e) to analyze which portions of a one-piece assembly are subject to the head impact protection requirements of S5.1. We note that it is difficult to determine the dividing line between a dashboard and an adjoining console where there is no intervening gap, and so we continue to believe that using S5.1.1(e) to determine the areas where the head impact protection requirements apply is more appropriate.
S5.1.1(e) exempts areas below any point at which a vertical line is tangent to the rearmost surface of the panel. NHTSA addressed this issue in a 2006 letter to Robert Babcock, in which we stated that for the vehicle in question the rearmost surface of the instrument panelis the rearmost surface of the dashboard at the right front passenger seating position.
Although it is difficult to tell from the oblique diagrams in your letter, a horizontal line drawn at the rearmost surface of the dashboard appears to fall between the seam in example A and the seam in example B. In this instance, a profile view would be helpful for a more precise interpretation. In the absence of an otherwise discernable rearmost surface of the instrument panel, NHTSA would not require areas below the line specified above to meet the head impact protection requirements of S5.1.
If you have any additional questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
NVS-100, NVS-200, Docket FMVSS 201