2338 Walgrove Avenue
Mar Vista, CA 90066
Dear Mr. Misumi:
This replies to your letter of April 22, 1996, to Enid Rubenstein of this Office asking for information on the applicability of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards to a limited-production vehicle you intend to manufacture in the near future. You have the following specific questions:
1. "Which FMVSS tests are applicable to us as an automobile manufacturer?"
Every manufacturer must meet all Federal motor vehicle safety standards, regardless of the size of its production, unless otherwise exempted by this agency pursuant to the procedures of 49 CFR Part 555. I enclose a copy of this regulation for your information.
2. "What are the estimated fees and costs of applicable FMVSS tests?"
I am sorry, but we have no information of the fees and costs that the various test laboratories charge private concerns.
3. "What is the time frame pertaining to the administration and completion of applicable FMVSS tests, relative to the vehicle production and sales cycle, (i.e., are tests to be administered and completed before any production vehicles "roll off" the production line, or can certification be completed after vehicles roll off the production line?)?"
Title 49 United States Code Chapter 301 - Motor Vehicle Safety does not require a manufacturer to conduct "tests", but it does require the manufacturer to produce motor vehicles that comply, and are certified as complying, with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. We advise manufacturers that, although the soundest way to assure compliance and the veracity of its associated certification is to test according to the procedures set forth in the standards, it may certify on the basis of computer simulations, engineering studies, mathematical calculations and
other reasonable substitutes for physical testing. Furthermore, it should retain the data in its files upon which its certification was based, in the event NHTSA ever asks the manufacturer to substantiate its certification.
Under 49 U.S.C. 30115 Certification of compliance, a manufacturer is required to "certify [compliance] to the distributor or dealer at delivery", and it "may not issue the certificate if, in exercising reasonable care, the [manufacturer] has reason to know the certificate is false or misleading in a material respect." Thus, a manufacturer should assure itself before applying the certification label that its vehicle fully conforms. This suggests that all test or other substantiating data be at hand at the time the first vehicle is certified. However, if a test laboratory has informed the manufacturer on an informal basis that it has tested a vehicle and found it to meet the performance requirements of a standard, the manufacturer could reasonably certify compliance before receiving the official test report.
The question you have asked is really best answered by the individual manufacturer based upon its best judgment and the legal considerations discussed above.
4. "What agencies or business entities administer FMVSS tests in the Los Angeles area?"
I enclose a list of test laboratories in the United States that NHTSA used in fiscal year 1995 to conduct its compliance testing. There may be additional testing labs that perform these services, and you may wish to consult other sources.
If you have any questions, you may refer them to Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
Enclosures ref:567#VSA d:5/24/96