Customer Service Manager
141 E. Independence Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28212
Dear Mr. Elzey:
This responds to your letter asking about a dealer's rights and responsibilities under Federal law when asked by a customer to disconnect an air bag. I apologize for the delay in this response.
As you may be aware, air bags are installed in cars and light trucks in conformity with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard that requires automatic protection for front seat occupants. Under Federal law, dealers and motor vehicle repair businesses normally are prohibited from deactivating components that have been installed to comply with such safety standards. NHTSA has a policy of allowing air bag deactivation for certain medical conditions, or if there is a special need for children to be in the front seat. In response to written requests, NHTSA has been issuing, on a case by case basis, letters to vehicle owners that would allow their dealer or repair business to disconnect one or both air bags without facing Federal civil penalties from this agency.
If the vehicle owner shows such a letter from NHTSA, the dealer or repair business would not be subject to Federal civil penalties for deactivating that air bag. However, it does not mean that the dealer or repair business is under any obligation to perform the deactivation. Further, NHTSA's letter does not shield any business from their potential civil liability to others.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you have any further questions, please feel free to send them to us at this address or FAX them to (202) 366-3820.
Acting Chief Counsel