Mr. Jiro Doi
Vice President and General Manager
Mitsubishi
1111 19th Street, N.W.
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Doi:

This responds to your letter concerning Standard No. 208's requirements for passenger air bag manual cut-off devices. As you note in your letter, S4.5.4 of the standard permits these devices in vehicles which either do not have rear seats or have rear seats that are smaller than a specified size. You stated that you are studying the feasibility of installing retrofit cut-off switches on such vehicles, and ask two questions concerning this matter.

First, you ask us to confirm your understanding that installation of retrofit cut-off switches in these vehicles would not violate the provision in Federal law that prohibits manufacturers and other commercial entities from making required safety equipment inoperative.(1)

Your understanding is correct. Because Standard No. 208 would have permitted these vehicles to be manufactured with passenger air bag manual cut-off devices when new, and so long as the devices used for retrofit meet all of the requirements specified in the standard for such devices, there would not be any violation of the "make inoperative" provision.

Second, you ask about S4.5.4.3's requirement that the telltale light for the cut-off device be "on the dashboard." You state that you believe the location of the manual cut-off device depicted in an attached drawing "is clearly visible from all front seating positions and may be considered a part of the dashboard." You state that you therefore believe that "placing the telltale lamp and air bag cut-off switch in the attached location between driver and passenger seating positions may comply with the requirements of S4.5.4.3."

As discussed below, we do not agree that the location shown in your drawing is considered a part of the dashboard. Therefore, the design would not comply with S4.5.4.3.

Your drawing shows the location of the manual cut-off device, including both the telltale lamp and air bag cut-off switch, as being on a low-lying portion of a center console which ultimately rises to meet the dashboard. We have previously issued interpretations addressing the issue of where the center console ends and the dashboard begins in the context of Standard No. 201. (Enclosed are copies of an October 27, 1986 letter to Mr. Tsuyoshi Shimizu and a July 21, 1988 letter to Mr. Hiroshi Kato.)

While we recognize that there is sometimes difficulty in determining the dividing line between a dashboard and an adjoining console, we believe the location shown on your drawing is on the console. This conclusion is based on the fact that location appears to be on a low-lying portion of the console, and before any significant rise toward the dashboard. We also note that, while it is difficult to tell from your drawing, there appears to be an indentation or gap that separates the instrument panel from the console. The location shown on your drawing is well below, and apparently rearward of, the indentation or gap.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Edward Glancy of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely,
John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel

Enclosures

ref:208

d.9/15/97

1. You cite 15 U.S.C. 1397(a)(2)(A) as the statutory reference for this provision. I note that this section was subsequently codified, without substantive change, at 49 U.S.C. 30122.