Much Shelist Freed Denenberg
Ament Bell & Rubenstein, P.C.
200 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60601-1095
Dear Mr. Shubert:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether a new corporation (your client, Great Dane Limited Partnership, "G.D. Ltd."), may use the world manufacturer identifiers (WMI) of two companies it has acquired (Pines Trailer Limited Partnership, "Pines Trailer," and Great Dane Trailers, Inc., "Great Dane Trailers"). Our answer is G.D. Ltd. may continue to use the WMIs that had been assigned to Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers.
Your letter stated that Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers were each assigned a WMI "effective for the 1981 model year." After G.D. Ltd. was formed in January 1997, it "acquired the manufacturing plants, equipment and proprietary rights to manufacture and distribute truck trailers" under both the Pines Trailer and Great Dane names and logos.
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you explained that G.D. Ltd. does not manufacture motor vehicles, has no intention of manufacturing motor vehicles, and is not assigned a WMI. You further stated that all Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers rights to manufacture motor vehicles were transferred when G.D. Ltd bought the rights and property of both entities. Your letter stated that G.D. Ltd. intends to maintain the unique product line and product design of Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers as separate divisions. Your letter stated that G.D. Ltd. does not presently intend to merge "the manufacturing facilities or product lines of the separate divisions."
NHTSA's regulation at 49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number Requirements, states that the WMI shall "uniquely identify the manufacturer, make and type of the motor vehicle if its manufacturer produces 500 or more motor vehicles of its type annually." (49 CFR section 565.6(a)) In past interpretation letters, NHTSA has interpreted "uniquely identify" to mean that the same WMI cannot be used for two corporate entities if there is a possibility the two entities will be confused.
We agree that the facts of G.D. Ltd.'s case are similar to those in our March 20, 1997 letter to Monaco Corporation. As was the case in Monaco, in G.D. Ltd.'s case, no WMI is assigned to the parent company (G.D. Ltd.), but a division (in G.D. Ltd.'s case, each division, Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers) has a WMI. NHTSA was assured in the Monaco case that there are no plans for the parent company, Monaco, to manufacture motor vehicles (which would require assigning a WMI). Similarly, in your letter to NHTSA, you assure us that G.D. Ltd. itself will not manufacture truck trailers or any other motor vehicles. You have also assured us that Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers will remain separate divisions, and advertised as separate trade names.
Because the relevant facts in your client's case and Monaco's are similar, we arrive at the same decision in your case as we did in Monaco's. Since G.D. Ltd. itself is not assigned a WMI, but its two divisions have separate WMIs, we agree that G.D. Ltd. may continue to use the WMIs that were assigned to Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers. Under the facts described, there would be no confusion as to which corporate entity manufactured the motor vehicle.
A copy of this letter will be sent to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which has a contract to administer the WMI system for NHTSA. The SAE will make appropriate notations in its records about G.D. Ltd., Pines Trailer, and Great Dane Trailers, and may contact you if it needs further information.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel
cc: Ms. Cathy Douds
Society of Automotive Engineers
400 Commonwealth Drive
Warrendale, PA 15096