Mr. Dietmar K. Haenchen
Manager, Vehicle Regulations
Volkswagen of America, Inc.
3800 Hamlin Road
Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Dear Mr. Haenchen:

This responds to your letter asking for interpretation of the September 28, 1995 amendments to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 206, Door locks and door retention components (60 FR 50124). These amendments extended the requirements of FMVSS No. 206 to the back doors of passenger cars and MPVs so equipped. Your questions referred to the applicability of paragraphs S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 of the standard, as amended, to various back door configurations.

As amended, S4.4.1 provides that each back door system shall be equipped with at least one primary latch and striker assembly. A "primary latch" is defined in the amended standard as one that is equipped with both the fully latched position and a secondary latched position.

As amended, S4.4.2 provides:

Door Locks. Each back door system equipped with interior door handles or that leads directly into a compartment that contains one or more seating accommodations shall be equipped with a locking mechanism with operating means in both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. When the locking mechanism is engaged, both the inside and outside door handles or other latch release controls shall be inoperative.

Your seven questions are stated below, followed by our responses.

QUESTION 1. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a trunk lid in a sedan type passenger car which has rear seats that can be folded down to enable the user to carry a larger cargo?

ANSWER: S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 do not apply. The rule in question did not extend the requirements of FMVSS No. 206 to trunk lids of passenger cars. Section S3, Definitions, of the amended standard defined "back door" to exclude Athe trunk lid of a passenger car whose trunk is separated from the passenger compartment by a partition." NHTSA will clarify this issue in response to petitions for reconsideration of the rule by redefining Atrunk lid.@

QUESTION 2. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a back door (tail gate) of a stationwagon in which there is no seating position in the rear cargo area behind the second row and no partition between the rearmost forward-facing seats and the back door?

ANSWER: S4.4.1 applies, S4.4.2 does not. Section S3, Definitions, of the rule defines "back door" as Aa door or door system on the back end of a vehicle through which passengers can enter or depart the vehicle, or cargo can be loaded or unloaded@ (with exceptions not relevant here, such as trunk lids).

The back door (tail gate) described in this question clearly falls within the above definition of "back door." Therefore, its primary latch assembly is required by S4.4.1 to have both a fully latched and a secondary latched position. This is so because even though there may not be seating positions in the area contiguous to the back door, back seat passengers can nevertheless be ejected through the back door (tail gate) in a crash.

On the other hand, assuming that this back door does not have an interior door handle and that it does not lead directly into a compartment containing one or more seating positions, a door locking mechanism would not be required under S4.4.2.

QUESTION 3. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a back door (tail gate) of a stationwagon in which there is a rearward-facing seating position behind the second row of forward- facing seats?

ANSWER: Yes. S4.4.1 applies to this back door for the reasons discussed in question 2 above. S4.4.2 also applies because the door opens directly into a compartment containing passenger seating accommodations.

QUESTION 4. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a hatchback passenger car where the back door is hinged above the rear glass and in which the rear seats are fixed and in which there is a removable partition behind the rear seats and over the cargo area?

ANSWER: The definition of Aback door@ excludes Aa door or window composed entirely of glazing material whose latches and/or hinges are attached directly onto the glazing material.@ However, we understand you to be asking about a door that is hinged on the metal part of the door and not directly on the glazing. That door would not qualify for the glazing exception. S4.4.1 would apply, therefore, for the reasons discussed in question 2 above. S4.4.2 would not apply because this door does not open directly into a passenger seating compartment and presumably is not otherwise equipped with an interior door handle.

QUESTION 4A. What is the answer for such a car where the rear seats can be folded down to expand the cargo area?

ANSWER: The answer would be the same for this door, whether or not the rear seatback folded down.

QUESTION 5. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a van equipped with only a driver and front passenger seat?

ANSWER: S4.4.1 would apply to the back door, unless the door is excepted from the definition of Aback door.@ S4.4.2 would not apply since this is a cargo vehicle in which the back door does not open directly into a passenger seating compartment.

QUESTION 5A. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a van equipped with multiple rows of seats such that an aisle-way is provided directly to the back door area allowing for possible passenger exit?

ANSWER: Again, S4.4.1 would apply to the back door unless the door is excepted from the definition of Aback door.@

The mere presence of an aisle leading from the front or side door of a vehicle to the back door area would not necessarily mean that the door would have to meet S4.4.2. The sole test in the standard is whether the back door opens directly into a compartment that contains passenger seating accommodations. Nevertheless, if an aisle provides access to the back door and the door is equipped with an interior handle to allow occupant egress, the door would have to comply with S4.4.2 whether or not it opened directly into a passenger seating compartment.

QUESTION 6. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a van with multiple rows of seats such that the last row of seats is fixed and covers the entire width of the interior of the vehicle so that the only way to exit from the back door would be to climb over the fixed seat?

ANSWER: S4.4.1 applies, S4.4.2 does not. The reasons are the same as those for question 2.

QUESTION 7. Do S4.4.1 and S4.4.2 apply to a van with multiple rows of seats in which the last row nearest the back door is removable at the option of the user, thus leaving free access between the forward seating area and the back door?

ANSWER: Assuming the rearmost seating row faces forward, this answer is similar to that of question No. 5. Presumably, the user would normally remove the rearmost seat not to install more passenger seats but to expand the size of the cargo compartment. Thus, assuming the door was not excepted from the back door definition, it would have to comply with S4.4.1. Further, since the door does not open directly into a passenger seating compartment, with or without the rearmost seating row, it would not have to comply with S4.4.2, unless otherwise equipped with an interior door handle.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Walter Myers of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely,

Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel

Ref:206 d:3/21/96