Ms. Melissa Van Gorkom
Washington State Patrol
Government and Media Relations
P.O. Box 42600
Olympia, WA 98504-2600
Dear Ms. Van Gorkom:
This responds to your questions regarding how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSAs) regulations apply to kit cars. You indicated that your questions specifically focus on a vehicle called the Tango T600, which is offered for sale by a company called Commuter Cars Corporation in Spokane, Washington. The companys website is: www.commutercars.com. Our answers are provided below.
By way of background information, NHTSA is authorized under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA has used this authority to issue FMVSSs that apply to passenger cars. This agency does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards. Also, it is unlawful for dealers to sell motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment that do not meet applicable standards.
At www.commutercars.com (as accessed on July 19, 2011) the following description of the Tango T600 is provided: In order to avoid the time and expense of certification, it is being sold as a mostly-assembled kit making completion by any customer, with or without mechanical skills, a quick and easy task. Based on the photographs provided, it appears the Tango T600 has four wheels, and is therefore considered a passenger car for purposes of NHTSAs regulations. Because the description does not state that the purchaser will provide a used chassis or other used parts, it appears that all new parts are used in the kit. The retail price listed is $108,000.
In your e-mail message dated December 9, 2008, to Rebecca Yoon of my staff, you posed the following questions regarding NHTSA requirements for Commuter Cars Corporation (CCC) and its product.
Your first question was whether the kit car manufacturer would be required to certify the compliance of the kit as meeting all applicable FMVSSs (pursuant to 49 CFR Part 567 Certification) and would have to apply a vehicle identification number (VIN) as specified in 49 CFR Part 565 Vehicle Identification Number Requirements.
The manufacturer in the case of the Tango T600 is CCC. In a NHTSA interpretation letter of July 9, 1993 to Mr. Christopher Banner (copy enclosed) we stated the following:
If you ship your kit cars with all parts needed to produce a complete motor vehicle, including the power source, the agency will treat the kit car as a motor vehicle, not an assemblage of motor vehicle equipment, regardless of the state of completion of the kit. You would be required to certify that the kit car conformed to all applicable safety standards if it were treated as a new vehicle under the rules set forth in 1. and 2. above, but not if it were treated as a used vehicle under those rules.
(See also, NHTSAs letter of September 27, 1993 to Mr. Joel Trim (copy enclosed).) Since it is offering for sale a kit car that includes all parts necessary for assembly, CCC is the manufacturer of the Tango T600 and must certify it as meeting all applicable FMVSSs for passenger cars. As the manufacturer of the Tango T600, it must also provide a VIN for each kit car.
In your submission, you have included a sample copy of a CCC Certification of Origin signed by Rick Woodbury, President/CEO of CCC. As part of the Certification of Origin, the following number is provided as the VIN: CCCT6000711000002. The first three digits of the VIN are known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), which is assigned to the manufacturer by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in Warrendale, Pennsylvania. (See 49 CFR Section 565.7(a)). We have checked with the SAE to ascertain whether SAE has assigned CCC to Commuter Cars Corporation as the WMI. We were advised that SAE has made no assignment of any WMI to Commuter Cars Corporation.
Your second question was whether, if the manufacturer of the motor vehicle cannot certify the vehicle as meeting all applicable FMVSSs, the manufacturer would be able to apply for an exemption from certain requirements (such as the requirement for air bag installation) through NHTSA. The answer is yes, but NHTSA may deny the exemption request, based on its analysis of the manufacturers application.
Finally, I am enclosing a copy of a NHTSA interpretation letter of October 29, 2003, to
Mr. John Lovstedt of the Hawaii State Department of Transportation, discussing the relationship between Federal and State laws relating to kit cars. In that letter, we stated in part:
I will note that the issue of whether a kit car is considered to be a new motor vehicle subject to the FMVSS in effect at the time of the assembly of the vehicle is a matter of Federal law, not State law. Thus, a person who manufactured a kit car that did not comply with the FMVSS and sold it, offered it for sale, or introduced it into interstate commerce would be in violation of Federal law, regardless of any State laws.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent
ref: Part 567