5228 Vineland Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Dear Mr. Meurer:
This is in reply to your letter of August 9, 1995, responding to mine of July 14. We note that you have withdrawn the application by PIVCO AS for temporary exemption from the automatic restraint requirements of Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, and have enclosed PIVCO AS's designation of you as its agent for service of process.
You have talked with Taylor Vinson of this office about your wish to import 12 City Bee electric vehicles manufactured by PIVCO AS, pursuant to 49 CFR 591.5(j). Although requests for permission to import a vehicle under section 591.5(j) are normally made to the Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, Mr. Vinson advised you to address your letter to this office because you seek a waiver from a restriction on such importations set out in 49 CFR 591.7(c).
49 U.S.C. 30112(a) prohibits, among other things, the importation of any motor vehicle that does not comply, and is not certified as complying, with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, section 30114 (formerly 15 U.S.C. 1397(j)) provides that the agency may exempt a nonconforming vehicle from section 30112(a) on terms that the agency "decides are necessary for research, investigation, demonstrations, training, or competitive racing events." Pursuant to 49 CFR 591.5(j), an importer such as Green Motorworks, which is not a manufacturer of a motor vehicle certified as meeting all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, may import a nonconforming vehicle for the purposes enumerated in section 30114 if the importer has received written permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We are construing your letter as a request pursuant to 49 CFR 591.5(j).
Under section 591.6(f)(1), such a request must contain "a full and complete statement identifying the vehicle . . . its make, model, model year or date of manufacture, VIN if a motor vehicle, and the specific purpose(s) of importation." The discussion of purpose must include a description of the use to be made of the vehicle, and, if use of the public roads is an integral part of the purpose for which the vehicle is imported, the statement shall request permission for use on the public roads, describing the use to which the vehicle shall be put, and the estimated period of time during which on-road use is necessary. Finally, the statement shall include the intended means of disposition (and disposition date) of the vehicle after completion of the purpose for which it was imported.
The Statement of Work that you enclosed indicates that the 12 noncomplying City Bees will be used in a Bay Area Station Car Demonstration Project that terminates September 15, 1997, the purpose of which is to determine the usefulness of electric cars for everyday short trips made by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) patrons who commute to work (28 additional cars to be provided in 1996 are to comply fully with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards). The project is financed by the Bay Area Quality Management District, the Advance Projects Research Administration of the U.S. Department of Defense, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, California Energy Commission, and California Department of Transportation. You have stated that the cars will be exported or destroyed at the end of the demonstration project.
Your statement is sufficiently complete that we can grant conditional permission at this point; when you provide the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance with the information that is lacking, that office will provide you with the final permission necessary to importation. Specifically, you have not provided the model year or date of manufacture of the City Bees that will be imported, nor their VINs.
Under paragraph 591.7(c), the importer must "at all times retain title to and possession of" vehicles imported pursuant to section 591.5(j)(2)(i), and "shall not lease" them. You seek a waiver of this restriction because you intend to lease the City Bees to BART for the duration of the demonstration project.
I find that, under the general authority of section 30114, the agency may provide Green Motorworks with a waiver from the limitation set out in paragraph 591.7(c). First of all, section 30114 imposes no limitations on the agency's exemption authority. It simply provides NHTSA with the discretion to permit the importation of noncomplying vehicles for certain purposes "on terms [NHTSA] decides are necessary." Second, the restriction on possession, control, and leasing set out in paragraph 591.7(c) is not required by statute. It arose from the agency's effort to forestall attempts at subterfuge by importers.
The Statement of Work makes clear that the data derived from research, investigations, and demonstrations utilizing the 12 City Bees is sought and supported by several Regional, Federal, and State governmental agencies and a public utility and that the proposed lease to BART will facilitate the project. Finally we note that the City Bees will apparently meet all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards with the exception of the automatic restraint requirements of Standard No. 208. Therefore, NHTSA believes that waiving paragraph 591.7(c) in this instance will be in the public interest.
If you have any further questions, you may again consult with Taylor Vinson on this matter at (202) 366- 5263.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:591#208 d:8/30/95