Ms. Katherine Hubanks
Director of Sales
2420 Wild Iris Lane
Dacula, GA 30019
Dear Ms. Hubanks:
This responds to your May 31, 2011 letter asking about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems. You explain that Kiddy USA (Kiddy) is a new manufacturer from Germany of childrens car seats setting up distribution in the United States. We understand from your letter that the manufacturer has had one or more of its child restraint systems (CRSs) tested at a U.S. test laboratory according to the test procedures of FMVSS No. 213. You enclose correspondence from an associate who asks whether eight test outcomes conform to FMVSS No. 213.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, including child restraints, and does not make determination as to whether a product conforms to the FMVSSs outside of an agency compliance test. Instead, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.) sets forth a self-certification process, in which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying the compliance of its products. Manufacturers are also responsible for ensuring that their products are free of safety-related defects.
The following interpretation of FMVSS No. 213 is based on the information provided in your letter, and could change if information becomes available that indicates that the information upon which this letter is based is not as we had understood. Also, we do not affirm that the test you conducted conforms to FMVSS No. 213s procedures. Please note that, if we do not comment on an aspect of performance of your CRS shown in your letter, this does not mean we believe a requirement does not apply or that your product would meet the requirement. Further, we note also that our answers to your questions are somewhat limited by the fact that your questions consisted mainly of photographs and almost no discussion.
1. Kiddys first question asks: Cracks on screw anchorage of torso shield belt guide --is this conform [sic]? One of the photographs appears to show a 3-year-old child test dummy in a CRS with a torso shield. A Type 1 belt is routed over the shield. Another photograph shows a close-up of the cracks, which are on the underside of the shield, the side not facing the test dummy.
Answer: S5.1.1 and S5.1.1(a) of FMVSS No. 213 apply to this situation. S5.1.1 and S5.1.1(a) state:
S5.1.1 Child restraint system integrity. When tested in accordance with S6.1, each child restraint system shall meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section.
(a) Exhibit no complete separation of any load bearing structural element and no partial separation exposing either surfaces with a radius of less than inch or surfaces with protrusions greater than 3/8 inch above the immediate adjacent surrounding contactable surface of any structural element of the system.
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S5.1.1(a) prohibits any complete separation of any load bearing structural element, which would include the torso shield. In the photographs you provided, it is difficult to see the cracks, but it does not appear that the cracks constitute a complete separation. Also, the cracks do not appear to be on a contactable surface, so the prohibitions of S5.1.1(a) against sharp edges or protrusions does not appear to apply. Accordingly, it appears that the cracks do not violate S5.1.1(a).
2. Kiddy asks: Lifting of headrest during crash test by top tether because of cracking of head rest adjust area--is this conform [sic]? A 12-month-old child test dummy was used in the test. A Type 1 belt and top tether were used with the CRS.
Answer: S5.1.1(b)(1) of FMVSS No. 213 states:
S5.1.1(b)(1) If adjustable to different positions, remain in the same adjustment position during the testing that it was in immediately before the testing, except as otherwise specified in paragraph (b)(2).
This requirement is intended to prevent a childs fingers or limbs from being caught between shifting parts of the CRS, and to prevent a childs sliding too far forward and downward (submarining) during a crash. In a September 4, 1996 letter to Mr. C. Scott Talbot, NHTSA interpreted the requirement as intending to prevent injuries caused by the
repositioning of the seating surface of the restraint (i.e., the reclining feature). In view of these considerations, we conclude that S5.1.1(b)(1) does not prohibit the head restraint from moving up.
However, on a different matter, it is not clear from your letter where the cracking of the head rest adjust area occurred, i.e., whether the cracking was to a load bearing structural element or to a contactable surface. Under S5.1.1(a), if the cracking was to a load bearing structural element--and we believe this area could qualify as such--there must not be any complete separation of the load bearing structural element. It was difficult to see the cracks in the photograph so we were unable to tell from the photograph if there was a complete separation.
If the cracking was to a contactable surface, there must not be any cracks exposing sharp edges or surfaces with protrusions greater than 3/8 inch above the immediate adjacent surrounding contactable surface. It appears from the photograph that a screw may have been protruding above the surrounding area. We cannot determine from the photograph whether this area was a contactable surface, or the height of the protrusion.
3. Kiddy asks: [R]etainment of 12 month Crabby [sic] (Dummy stood up slightly)--is this conform [sic]? The dummy was in a forward-facing child seat.
Answer: S5.1.3 and S18.104.22.168 of FMVSS No. 213 state:
S5.1.3 Occupant excursion. When tested in accordance with S6.1 and the requirements specified in this section, each child restraint system shall meet the applicable excursion requirements specified in S22.214.171.124-S126.96.36.199.
S188.8.131.52 Child restraint systems other than rear-facing ones and car beds. Each child restraint system, other than a rear-facing child restraint system or a car bed, shall retain the test dummys torso within the system.
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Torso is defined (S4) in FMVSS No. 213 as: the portion of the body of a seated anthropomorphic test dummy, excluding the thighs, that lies between the top of the child restraint system seating surface and the top of the shoulders of the test dummy. From the photograph you provided, we cannot determine the location of the dummys shoulders relative to the child restraint when the dummy stood up slightly.
4. Kiddy asks: Cracks at torso shield belt guide--is this conform [sic]? This test involved a CRS tested with a 3-year-old child test dummy.
Answer: Our answer is similar to our answer to question 1. S5.1.1(a) prohibits any complete separation of any load bearing structural element, which would include the torso shield. It is difficult to see the photographs you provided, and we cannot determine if the cracks constitute a complete separation. The cracks do not appear to be on a contactable surface since they are on the underside of the shield.
5. Kiddy asks: Belt guide connection to the head rest breaks/but belt guide remains at head rest because of screw contact to metal support inside--is this conform [sic]? This was a test of the CRS in a booster mode with a 6-year-old child test dummy in a Type II belt.
Answer: Is the belt guide a load bearing structural element? We cannot tell from the photograph you sent. Generally, webbing guides that only position the seat belt webbing for the users comfort and that do not have structural benefit for the performance of the CRS or vehicle belt performance are not considered a structural part of the seat. As such, the prohibition of S5.1.1(a) would not apply. If the belt guide is a load bearing structural element, S5.1.1(a) would prohibit the breaking you describe.
6. Kiddy asks: [B]elt guide has damaged the safety belt--is this conform [sic]? The photograph shows a substantial rip in the shoulder belt webbing. We assume the damage occurred in the dynamic test.
Answer: Manufacturers must ensure that their child restraints are free of safety-related defects. The ripping of the seat belt by the belt guide raises a concern about a possible safety-related defect of the CRS. If data indicated that the damaged seat belt exposed occupants to an unreasonable risk of injury, NHTSA might conduct a defect investigation which could lead to a safety recall.
7. Kiddy asks: Opening and cracking on belt guide hook located on the head rest--is this conform [sic]? The photograph shows the buckle position clip broken off.
Answer: Our answer is the same as our answer to question 5. If the belt guide is a load bearing structural element, S5.1.1(a) would prohibit the breaking you describe.
8. Kiddy asks: Belt guide connection to the head rest breaks/but belt guide remains at head rest because of screw contact to metal support inside--is this conform [sic]? Notations indicate that this test is with the HIII 5th Female.
Answer: FMVSS No. 213 does not specify testing with the Hybrid III 5th percentile adult female, so we are not sure of the context of your question. If you are asking whether the belt guides breaking is permitted under FMVSS No. 213 in an FMVSS No. 213 test, see our answer to question 5.
I would like to draw your attention to two procedural regulations of which manufacturers should be aware to import child restraints into the United States. The first is 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification. This regulation requires a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment subject to the FMVSSs to submit its name, address, and a brief description of the equipment it manufactures to this agency within 30 days of the date the equipment is first manufactured.
The second regulation is 49 CFR Part 551, Procedural Rules. Section 551.45 requires the manufacturer of foreign‑manufactured child restraints to designate a permanent resident of the United States as the manufacturer's agent for service of process in this country. The regulation specifies the items needed for a valid designation.
I hope this information is helpful. For your information, I have enclosed a brief information sheet for new manufacturers. If you have any further questions, please contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent
 FMVSS No. 213 (S4) defines contactable surface as: any child restraint system surface (other than that of a belt, belt buckle, or belt adjustment hardware) that may contact any part of the head or torso of the appropriate test dummy, specified in S7, when a child restraint system is tested in accordance with S6.1.