Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P.
555 Thirteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004-1109
Dear Mr. Raher:
This responds to your request for an interpretation of the seat position specifications of Standards No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, and No. 214, Side Impact Protection. These specifications, which are part of the test conditions for the standards' dynamic crash tests, indicate how a vehicle's seats are positioned in those tests. You asked how the specifications apply in the case of power seats which have different maximum seating locations in the forward and rearward position depending on seat height. As discussed below, the seats would be positioned midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions (with the forwardmost and rearmost positions being determined irrespective of seat height), and at the lowest possible height at that midway position. This appears to correspond to Option 1 in your letter.
In your letter, you described a power seat design whose seat position potential is trapezoidal rather than rectangular, due to the mechanism utilized in the power seat operation. In particular, the seat can move further forward in its highest position than in its lowest position, and further rearward in its lowest position than in its highest position. You also indicated that a lowering of the seat from a higher position has the effect of moving the seat backward.
The seat position specifications of Standards No. 208 (S8.1.2) and No. 214 (S6.3) read as follows:
Adjustable seats are in the adjustment position midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions, and if separately adjustable in a vertical direction, are at the lowest position. If an adjustment position does not exist midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions, the closest adjustment position to the rear of the midpoint is used.
This provision sets forth two conditions concerning how an adjustable seat is positioned in a crash test. The first condition, for the longitudinal position of the seat, is for the seat to be in the adjustment position midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions. The terms "forwardmost" and "rearmost" are not qualified by height, so the absolute forwardmost and rearmost positions would be used, irrespective of seat height at those positions.
The second condition, for the vertical position of a seat which is separately adjustable in a vertical direction, is for the seat to be in the lowest position. We interpret this to refer to the lowest vertical position that can be attained at the longitudinal position described above. Therefore, in positioning a seat for a crash test, we would not change the longitudinal position of the seat merely because the mechanism was designed so that lowering the seat from a higher position had the effect of moving the seat backward. Instead, we would find the lowest vertical position that could be attained at the specified longitudinal position.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Edward Glancy of my staff at 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel