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09-004022 -- immediate answer for GM re WMIs -- 6 Jul 09 rsy

Brian Latouf, Director

Global Structure and Safety Integration Center

General Motors North America

30200 Mound Road

Warren, MI 48090-9010

Dear Mr. Latouf:

This responds to your June 9, 2009, letter to Mr. Claude Harris of the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regarding the plans of General Motors (GM) for World Manufacturer Identifiers (WMIs) in light of GMs Chapter 11 filing for bankruptcy protection and pending Section 363 sale. Your colleague, Mr. Steve Gehring, requested in a follow-up phone call on July 6, 2009, that NHTSA officially confirm that it approves of GMs proposed approach, described below. Based on the information you have provided and our analysis below, we confirm that the proposed approach is acceptable under our regulations.

In your letter, you state that after the Section 363 sale, GM intends to transfer its currently allocated WMIs to the new corporate entity replacing GM (for purposes of this letter, New GM). You further state that GM will utilize the appropriate process working through SAE. With regard to particular vehicles lines currently produced by GM, you state that GM anticipates the sale of the Hummer, Saturn and Saab businesses, and that you anticipate New GM will maintain the current WMIs if New GM continues to produce the vehicles as part of contractual agreements.

We agree that the approach to use the currently allocated WMIs is reasonable. When NHTSA addressed such issues previously, we focused on the language in what is now 49 CFR 565.15(a) (previously 565.4(a)), which states that the section of the vehicle identification number that contains the manufacturer identifier shall uniquely identify the manufacturer. We have previously interpreted that phrase to preclude any other

manufacturer from using a WMI assigned to another manufacturer; our primary concern has been avoiding confusion regarding the identity of a vehicles manufacturer. Where there is no reason to anticipate confusion, we have not objected to a manufacturer continuing to use WMIs assigned to the prior corporate entity.[1] We recognize that the new GM is not the same entity or manufacturer as the old GM. However, we do not believe that there will be substantial and legitimate confusion between General Motors Corporation (the Old GM) and the new General Motors Company (the new GM).

With regard to the anticipated sale of the Hummer, Saturn and Saab businesses, your letter only mentions that we anticipate New GM will maintain the current WMIs if New GM continues to produce the vehicles as part of contractual agreements. Generally we concur that if Manufacturer A were manufacturing vehicles for Manufacturer B, the appropriate WMI would be the one used by Manufacturer A. However, given that you did not provide information about the entities that will be producing the Hummer, Saturn, and Saab vehicles at various times in the future, we have to reserve opinion at this time on whether it would be permissible for those newly-separated businesses to continue to use the GM WMI.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen P. Wood

Acting Chief Counsel




[1] See, e.g., letter to Mr. Steven Sinkez, August 2, 1995; letter to Mr. Timothy D. McDonnell, April 18, 1997, copies enclosed. In the Sinkez letter, an entity was permitted to continue to use the WMI assigned to it prior to the entitys name change. In the McDonnell letter, an entity could continue to use the WMI that had been assigned to it prior to a change in ownership and later name change.