Mr. Ottar Cato Olsen
Project Engineer
Safety & Homologation
Stanseveien 4
N-0975 Oslo

Dear Mr. Olsen:

This responds to your letter, addressed to Paul Atelsek of my staff, asking several questions about our safety standards. I apologize for the delay in our response.

You first ask about a proposed design for a passenger air bag (PAB) on-off switch for "two seat cars." You state:

    The proposed solution for deactivating the PAB is as follows:

  • Turn the ignition switch to start position . . .;
  • The start position on the ignition key will activate a PAB switch;
  • The PAB switch, located on the top of the steering column cover, can now be pushed to activate/deactivate the PAB;
  • If the PAB is deactivated, a yellow light in the center console (visible for both people in the front) will be turned on.
  • It is only possible to change the PAB status when the ignition key is in the start position.

You asked whether this system would meet NHTSA's requirements, and whether this agency has "any lamp display that PIVCO can use for the deactivated PAB."

By way of background information, NHTSA has established specific requirements for passenger air bag manual cut-off devices. These requirements are set forth in S4.5.4 of Standard No. 208. I have enclosed a copy of that section revised as of October 1, 1996, and a final rule published on January 6, 1997 (Docket 74-14, Notice 109) which amended that section.

As you will see, your proposed design would not meet the requirements of S4.5.4. For example, it would not meet the requirement specified in S4.5.4.2 that a passenger air bag manual cut-off device must be separate from the ignition switch for the vehicle, "so that the driver must take some action with the ignition key other than inserting it or turning it in the ignition switch to deactivate the passenger air bag." Also, it would not meet the requirement in S4.5.4.3 that the telltale light be located on the dashboard. As to your question concerning whether this agency has "any lamp display that PIVCO can use for the deactivated PAB," S4.5.4 includes several requirements for the display. Among other things, S4.5.4.3 specifies that the telltale must be yellow, and must have the identifying words "AIR BAG OFF" on the telltale or within 25 millimeters of the telltale.

You next ask when the "new FMVSS 201" will influence PIVCO. You state that PIVCO is a small car manufacturer, with only one vehicle line, producing 5,000 cars a year.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 201; Occupant Protection in Interior Impact was amended by a final rule published on August 18, 1995 (62 FR 16718). This final rule, which established new requirements for head protection, was amended by a notice published on April 8, 1997 (62 FR 16718).

The standard provides manufacturers with four phase-in options for meeting its requirements.

These phase-in options are not dependent on the number of vehicles produced by a manufacturer. Options one and two, found in S6.1.1. and S6.1.2 of the Standard, provide that certain percentages of production manufactured on or after September 1, 1998 must meet the new requirements. The third option, found in S6.1.3 of the Standard, states that manufacturers need not produce any complying vehicles before September 1, 1999 but that all vehicles produced on or after that date must comply. This option, which provides longer lead time than the first two options, was intended to accommodate manufacturers with limited product lines.

The fourth option is applicable only to final stage manufacturers. The term "final stage manufacturer" is defined at 49 CFR 568.3 as "a person who performs such manufacturing operations on an incomplete vehicle that it becomes a completed vehicle." An "incomplete vehicle" is defined in that section as "an assemblage consisting, at a minimum, of frame and chassis structure, power train, steering system, suspension system, and braking system . . . that requires further manufacturing operations . . . to become a completed vehicle." If PIVCO is a "final stage manufacturer," it need not produce any vehicles that comply before September 1, 2002. However, all vehicles manufactured on or after that date must comply.

There is no exclusion from the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) based upon the volume produced by the manufacturer. All motor vehicles must comply with all FMVSS, unless the agency has exempted them from one or more of the standards. NHTSA is authorized by 49 U.S.C. 30113 to exempt, on a temporary basis, a manufacturer whose total yearly production does not exceed 10,000 motor vehicles, from any FMVSS that would cause the manufacturer substantial economic hardship were it required to meet it immediately. The application procedures for such an exemption are contained in 49 CFR 555.5 and 555.6(a). The applicant must not only show hardship, but also that it has tried in good faith to meet the standard from which it requests relief.

Finally, you ask about contact persons within NHTSA. You ask whether it is OK for all communications between PIVCO and NHTSA to go through Mr. Atelsek, and whether there is any other way of communicating with NHTSA, e.g., by fax or e-mail.

In communicating with NHTSA, PIVCO should contact the specific office or person for which it has relevant questions or other business, to the extent it has the knowledge to do so. Requests for legal interpretation should be sent to Chief Counsel, Room 5219, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, DC 20590 (FAX 202-366-3820). Questions regarding Standard 208 should be directed to Mr. Edward Glancy ( Inquiries about Standard 201 should be directed to Mr. Otto Matheke (


John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel