Mr. Tommy Nordkil
Volvo Technology Corporation
M1.6, Dept. 6857
Dear Mr. Nordkil:
This responds to your email requesting information about whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued any regulations addressing the retention of records regarding certification test data. Your question arises in the context of testing procedures set forth in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials (49 CFR 571.302). As explained below, the answer is no, but a manufacturer would be well-advised to retain such records in case its motor vehicle or item of equipment does not comply with an applicable safety standard.
By way of background, NHTSA is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture. NHTSA selects a sampling of new vehicles and equipment each year to determine their compliance with applicable FMVSSs. If our testing or examination reveals an apparent noncompliance, we may require the manufacturer to remedy the noncompliance, and may initiate an enforcement proceeding, if necessary, to ensure that the manufacturer takes appropriate action.
NHTSA follows the test procedures and conditions established in the safety standards when conducting its own compliance testing, and the results of NHTSA's compliance tests are always recorded and made available to the public through the agency's Technical Information Services division. However, the Safety Act does not require a manufacturer to test its products only in the manner specified in the relevant safety standard, or even to test its products at all. A manufacturer may choose any means of certifying that its products comply with the requirements of the safety standards. If the manufacturer chooses to conduct testing, there is no requirement that the manufacturer retain those results.
However, where a manufacturer submits a noncompliance report, it must submit to NHTSA the test results and other information on which it based its determination of noncompliance. (49 CFR 573.6(c)(7).) Moreover, if NHTSA testing shows that an apparent noncompliance exists with a vehicle or item of equipment, the manufacturer is asked to show the basis for its certification that the vehicle or equipment complies with the relevant safety standard or standards. If, in fact, there is a noncompliance, the manufacturer is subject to recall provisions, and is subject to civil penalties unless it can establish that it exercised reasonable care" in certifying the product and had no reason to know that its motor vehicle or item of equipment did not comply with the safety standards. (49 U.S.C. 30112). Given the potential for civil penalties, it is in a manufacturer's best interests to retain its testing records in case it must establish reasonable care.
NHTSA has issued a regulation addressing recordkeeping, 49 CFR Part 576, Record Retention, which establishes requirements for the retention by motor vehicle manufacturers of complaints, reports, and other records concerning motor vehicle defects and malfunctions that may relate to motor vehicle safety. However, nothing in this provision requires retention of information generated during compliance testing.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
Cc: NCC-110 Subj/Chron, Docket Std. 302
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