President, TMR International, Inc.
5820 Canton Center Road
Canton, MI 48187
Dear Mr. Lee:
This is in reply to your FAX of February 28, 1995, asking several questions about the importation and sale of an aftermarket airbag. The airbag "comes in assembly with a steering wheel" and is intended for installation in vehicles not originally equipped with a driver's airbag.
You have asked the following questions:
"a) Whether such a product as described is legal for U.S. sale."
There is no Federal prohibition per se against the sale of aftermarket airbags. However, pressure vessels and explosive devices for use in airbag systems must comply with section S9 of Standard No. 208, even if they are aftermarket equipment. Therefore the manufacturer of these items (or the importer, who is defined as a "manufacturer" under our statute) must certify that they comply with the requirements of S9 of Standard No. 208.
S9 prescribes performance requirements that are found in 49 CFR secs. 173 and 178, regulations of another Administration of the Department of Transportation. We suggest that you write the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Research and Special Programs Administration, 400 7th Street, Washington, D.C. 20590 for an opinion as to whether other of its regulations apply to your product or its movement in interstate commerce.
As to whether the laws of the individual States regulate the sale of aftermarket airbags, you should write, for an opinion, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22203.
"b) Legal procedures, testing or submissions required to certify the product for U.S. sale."
The requirements for compliance with S9 of Standard No. 208 are set forth in 49 CFR secs. 173 and 178. When the manufacturer who is responsible for certifying compliance is satisfied that the equipment, in fact, does conform, it certifies the product. At that point, pressure vessels and explosive devices that are part of an airbag assembly, if not manufactured in the United States, may be imported into this country. A state is not permitted to have performance requirements for pressure vessels and explosive devices that differ from those of S9, but it may have a standard requiring identical performance, and, if so, they may ask for documentary assurance of compliance.
"c) Applicable Federal law (e.g. FMVSS 208)."
See replies to your previous questions. You should also note that an aftermarket airbag is "motor vehicle equipment" within the meaning of the U.S. Code. Therefore, if the air bag contained a defect (either in manufacture, design, or performance) that relates to motor vehicle safety, the manufacturer would be required to conduct a recall campaign to notify owners and to remedy the defect free of charge.
One Federal law does bear upon the installation of the airbag. It is a violation of 49 U.S.C. 30122 if a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business replaces a piece of original equipment that was necessary for compliance with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard, if the replacement part creates a noncompliance with that standard. The design of the steering wheel may affect compliance with Federal Standards Nos. 203 Impact protection for the driver from the steering control system and 204 Steering control rearward displacement. We recommend that you satisfy yourself that installation of the airbag will not affect the previous ability to comply, of the vehicle in which it is installed, before marketing the product.
"d) Actions or registrations required to reduce legal risks."
We are not in a position to advise you on matters that do not relate to Federal laws that we administer. We recommend that you consult a private attorney on these matters.
"e) Any other information of which we should be aware."
You should encounter no difficulties in importing the airbag and steering wheel under our importation regulation, 49 CFR Part 591 as long as any components that are required to comply with S9 of Standard No. 208 are certified as meeting that standard.
I am enclosing an information sheet that outlines the various laws and regulations that we administer pertaining to motor vehicles and equipment with the thought that you might find it helpful.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel
Enclosure ref:208 d:4/10/95