Ms. Robin R. Miller
DaRosa and Miller
208 North West Street
P.O. Box 48
Wheaton, IL 60189-0048

Dear Ms. Miller:

This responds to your letter of November 22, 1994, requesting information on what type of occupant protection systems (seat belts and/or air bags) were required in four passenger cars. The passenger cars were manufactured by Excalibur Automobile Corporation (Excalibur) between January 10, 1994, and May 6, 1994.

By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under Title 49, Chapter 301 of the U.S. Code to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Chapter 301 prohibits any person from manufacturing, introducing into commerce, selling, or importing any new motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment unless the vehicle or equipment item is in conformity with all applicable safety standards. NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Instead, the Safety Act establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards.

One of the standards established by NHTSA, Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection (49 CFR 571.208) requires some type of occupant protection system to be installed at all designated seating positions in all passenger cars. Different installation requirements apply depending on the seating position within the vehicle and the date of manufacture.

For passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 1989, but before September 1, 1996, Standard No. 208 requires automatic crash protection at every front outboard seating position. Automatic crash protection systems protect their occupants by means that require no action by vehicle occupants. Compliance with the automatic crash protection requirements of Standard No. 208 is determined in a dynamic crash test. That is, a vehicle must comply with specified injury criteria, as measured on a test dummy, in a 30 mph barrier crash test. The two types of automatic crash protection currently offered are automatic safety belts (which help to assure belt use) and air bags (which supplement safety belts and offer some protection even when safety belts are not used).

In addition, for passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 1989, but before September 1, 1996, Standard No. 208 requires Type 2 belts at every forward facing rear outboard designated seating position, and a Type 1 or Type 2 seat belt assembly at every other seating position. Type 2 seat belt assemblies are defined in Standard No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, as "a combination of pelvic and upper torso restraints." Type 1 seat belt assemblies are defined in Standard No. 209 as "a lap belt for pelvic restraint."

You should be aware that Excalibur has applied for temporary exemption (49 CFR Part 555) from the automatic crash protection requirements of Standard No. 208 which would, if granted, apply to vehicles manufactured on or after the effective date of the exemption. Excalibur has also asked that it apply to those vehicles already manufactured but unsold and in dealer inventory. In addition, the manufacturer has also applied for an exemption from notification and remedy of its noncompliance with the automatic crash protection requirements on the basis that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety (49 CFR Part 556). If granted, this would relieve Excalibur of the obligation to notify and remedy the noncompliance in vehicles already manufactured and not covered by the safety exemption petition. Prior to acting upon either of these applications, NHTSA will publish notices in the Federal Register requesting comments.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Mary Versailles of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.


Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel

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