Office of the General Counsel
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C. 20207-0001
Dear Mr. Brauninger:
This responds to your letter asking whether a window shade intended for use on an automobile is motor vehicle equipment. I apologize for the delay in sending this letter. From the materials you sent us, we assume that you are referring to the roll-down shades that suction onto the rear side window of vehicles, usually for the purpose of keeping the sun off the faces of children strapped into child safety seats.
The answer to your question is yes. The window shades are an accessory (a type of motor vehicle equipment) under 49 U.S.C. '30102(a)(7). As explained in my September 16, 1994, letter from this office to Mr. Harleigh Ewell of your office, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses two criteria in determining whether a device is an "accessory." The two criteria are whether:
(1) A substantial portion of its expected uses are related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles; and
(2) it is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles.
Applying these criteria to the window shades, we conclude that they are accessories. We determine a product's expected use by considering product advertising, product labeling, and the type of store that retails the product, as well as available information about the actual use of the product. We assume that the window shade you are referring to has packaging that shows that its purpose is to shield vehicle occupants from the sun while the vehicle is in operation. The shade would typically be acquired and used by ordinary users of motor vehicles (i.e., anyone using the vehicle). Since the shade satisfies both criteria, it is considered to be an "accessory" and thus motor vehicle equipment.
NHTSA has issued no safety standards that apply specifically to window shades that are sold separately from the vehicle.
However, as you know, manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment are responsible under our statute for ensuring that their products are free of safety-related defects. If you will send us the information you have regarding the incidence of accidents caused by these window shades, we will forward it to the appropriate NHTSA office.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Paul Atelsek at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Acting Chief Counsel