Hugh J. Bode, Esq.
Reminger & Reminger
The 113 St. Clair Building
Cleveland, OH 44114

Dear Mr. Bode:

This responds to your letter concerning whether 49 U.S.C. ''30101 et seq. (formerly the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act) requires a motor vehicle manufacturer to ensure that its vehicle continues to comply with applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) after the first retail purchase of the vehicle.

You specifically ask about FMVSS No. 124, "Accelerator Control Systems," and its application to a 1988 Dodge Ram 50 pickup truck. It appears from the questions you ask that corrosion developed inside the carburetor of the pickup truck at some point during the life of the vehicle, such that the carburetor would not return to idle in accordance with the requirements of Standard No. 124.

You asked us to "confirm the accuracy" of a number of statements. Your first statement, concerning the application of the FMVSSs generally, is as follows:

As we understand it, former '108(a)(1)(A) of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. '30112(a), prohibits any person from manufacturing, selling or introducing into commerce any new motor vehicle unless the vehicle is in conformity with all applicable FMVSS. However, the Safety Act further provides that the requirement that a vehicle comply with all applicable FMVSS does not apply after the first purchase for purposes other than resale, i.e., the first retail sale of the vehicle. Safety Act former '108(b)(1), 49 U.S.C. '30112(b)(1). After the first retail sale, the only provision in the Safety Act that affects a vehicle's continuing compliance with an applicable FMVSS is set forth in former '108(a)(2)(A), 49 U.S.C. '30122(b), which prohibits certain persons from knowingly rendering inoperative a device installed in a motor vehicle in compliance with an applicable FMVSS.

Your general understanding is correct. However, a manufacturer has responsibilities in addition to those in '30112, that may bear upon on "continuing compliance" of its vehicle. Under ''30118-30122 of our statute, each motor vehicle manufacturer must ensure that its vehicles are free of safety-related defects. If NHTSA or the manufacturer of a vehicle determines that the vehicle contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer must notify purchasers of the defective vehicle and remedy the problem free of charge.

This is not to say that the development of the corrosion in the carburetor necessarily constitutes a safety-related defect. Rather, we acknowledge the possibility of such a finding in certain circumstances, such as where the corrosion developed unreasonably quickly in the vehicle and the problem was such that it could lead to crashes involving injuries or fatalities.

State law could also be relevant to this issue. For example, as part of its vehicle inspection requirements, a State could require that the accelerator control systems on vehicles "continue to comply" with the requirements of Standard No. 124.

With the above discussion in mind, I will now address your other four questions on Standard No. 124.

Question 1. We ask that NHTSA confirm that FMVSS 124 is a standard that a given vehicle must comply with only at the time of the first retail sale of the vehicle.

As explained in our answer above, your understanding is correct with regard to our requirements (49 U.S.C. '30112). There may be State requirements that apply.

Question 2. We ask NHTSA to confirm that if a carburetor installed in a 1988 Dodge Ram 50 pickup truck met all the requirements of FMVSS 124 at the time of the truck's first retail sale, but, after the sale, due to in- service conditions, corrosion developed inside the carburetor so the carburetor would not return to idle in accordance with the requirements of S5.1, S5.2, and S5.3 of FMVSS 124, that circumstance would not render the vehicle in violation of FMVSS 124.

Your understanding is essentially correct. As permitted by Federal law, Chrysler sold the truck based upon its own certification of compliance with FMVSS No. 124. That corrosion developed in the system may or may not be relevant with respect to the existence of a safety-related defect.

Question 3. We ask NHTSA to confirm that all of the performance standards imposed by FMVSS 124 are contained in S5.1, S5.2 and S5.3 of FMVSS 124 and that S2 headed PURPOSE does not impose any separate regulatory obligation beyond those contained in S5.

While your understanding is essentially correct, note that Standard No. 124 and other motor vehicle safety standards are minimum performance standards.

Question 4. We ask you to confirm that the performance standard set forth in FMVSS 124 does not contain any requirement relating to durability or corrosion resistance.

Standard No. 124 does not specify a test for corrosion resistance. It is unclear what you mean by "durability." The requirements of the standard must be met when the engine "is running under any load condition, and at any ambient temperature between -40N F. and +125N F. ...." (S5) In addition to the performance regulated by Standard No. 124, each manufacturer must ensure that its motor vehicle does not have a safety-related defect.

If you have any questions about the information provided above, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.


John Womack Acting Chief Counsel

ref:VSA#124 d:10/26/95