Mr. Glenn J. Vick, National Account Manager
Marketing and Sales Office
Commercial Truck Vehicle Center
Ford Automotive Operations
Regent Court, Suite 950
16800 Executive Plaza Drive
Dearborn, MI 48126

Dear Mr. Vick:

This responds to your letter concerning Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 221, School bus body joint strength. You explain that Ford is planning to introduce a new E-350 super duty chassis with a cut- away cab for use by final-stage manufacturers in producing large school buses. You ask how Standard No. 221 applies to the chassis.

I am pleased to clarify our regulations for you. As explained below, Ford has responsibilities as an incomplete vehicle manufacturer, but these do not include certifying that a school bus completed on your chassis will meet Standard No. 221.

As an incomplete vehicle manufacturer, Ford's responsibilities are described in section 568.4 of 49 CFR Part 568, Vehicles manufactured in two or more stages. Ford must furnish certain information with the incomplete vehicle at or before the vehicle's delivery to the intermediate or final-stage manufacturer. (We will refer to the document(s) containing this information as "the incomplete vehicle document.") This information includes the vehicle type(s) into which the incomplete vehicle may appropriately be manufactured, and a listing, by number, of each FMVSS that applies to any of the listed vehicle types. Further, Ford must follow this listing with one of the following three types of statements, as applicable, for each standard:

1. A statement that the vehicle when completed will conform to the safety standard if no alterations are made in identified components of the incomplete vehicle;

2. A statement of specific conditions of final manufacture under which Ford specifies that the completed vehicle will conform to the standard; or,

3. A statement that conformity with the standard is not substantially affected by the design of the incomplete vehicle, and that Ford makes no representation as to conformity with the standard.

In accordance with these requirements, your incomplete vehicle document must indicate that the incomplete vehicle may be appropriately manufactured into a school bus. It must also list, by number, each FMVSS that applies to school buses, including Standard No. 221.

As a practical matter, the third statement is the one likely to be used by a chassis manufacturer, with regard to Standard No. 221. The standard requires school bus body panel joints to be capable of holding the body panel to the member to which it is joined when subjected to a force of 60 percent of the tensile strength of the weakest joined body panel. It is likely that the conformity with the standard would not be substantially affected by the design of the incomplete vehicle.

Nevertheless, we would encourage Ford to consult with the final-stage manufacturer on its work completing the school bus. A completed vehicle's conformity to the FMVSSs can be substantially affected by both the design of the incomplete vehicle and the manner of completion by the final-stage manufacturer. Moreover, the compliance of the school bus with certain FMVSSs, such as the braking standard (FMVSS No. 105) and the fuel tank integrity standard (FMVSS No. 301), is highly dependent on the design of the incomplete vehicle. Some final-stage manufacturers may need information from the incomplete vehicle manufacturer, in addition to the incomplete vehicle document, to assist them in properly completing the vehicle.

I hope this responds to your questions. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


John Womack Acting Chief Counsel

ref:221#567#568 d:10/20/95 Please note that NHTSA's certification regulation, 49 CFR Part 567, provides an incomplete vehicle manufacturer the option of assuming legal responsibility for certifying the compliance of the vehicle as finally manufactured. See 49 CFR section 567.5(e).