Mr. Glen L. Bobst
2910 North St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94574

Dear Mr. Bobst:

Please pardon the delay in responding to your letter to

Mr. Stuart Seigel of this agency requesting DOT approval for your wheel safety rim. Your letter and enclosed drawings describe a metal belt that fits inside the wheel well so that "a driver can, after a blowout, continue to drive to a rest stop or service station and not be stranded on a lonely stretch of road."

By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the statutory authority to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Federal law establishes a self-certification system under which motor vehicle and equipment manufacturers themselves certify that their products comply with all applicable FMVSSs. NHTSA neither tests, approves, disapproves, endorses, nor grants clearances for products prior to their introduction into the retail market. The agency enforces compliance with the standards by randomly purchasing motor vehicles and equipment and testing them for compliance with applicable standards. NHTSA also investigates safety-related defects. If a vehicle or item of equipment is found not to comply with applicable standards or is found to have a safety defect, the manufacturer is responsible for remedying the noncompliance or defect at no charge to the customer.

Turning now to the wheel safety rim, NHTSA would classify it as an item of motor vehicle equipment, defined in 49 U.S. Code (U.S.C.), 30102(a)(7)(B) as any "part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as an accessory or addition to a motor vehicle." Specifically, the wheel safety rim is an accessory if it meets the following criteria:

  1. A substantial portion of its expected uses are related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles; and

  2. It is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles.

After reviewing your letter and its enclosed illustrations, we conclude that the wheel safety rim is an accessory. It was designed with the expectation that a substantial portion of its expected use will be in motor vehicles. Even its name indicates its intended purpose. Secondly, the illustrations make it clear that the wheel safety rim is intended to be purchased and principally used by ordinary users of motor vehicles since its stated purpose is to enable motorists experiencing tire failure to continue driving until a safe place can be found to change the tire.

While the wheel safety rim is a motor vehicle accessory, NHTSA has not issued any FMVSSs establishing performance standards applicable to this product. However, the manufacturer, whether you or a licensee, is subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 30118 - 30121 (copies enclosed)which set forth the recall and remedy procedures for products with defects related to motor vehicle safety. As noted earlier, in the event that the manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and for remedying the problem free of charge.

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

Sincerely,
John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel
ref:VSA
d:7/24/97