Mr. Jerry McNeil
Vice President of Engineering
Pines Trailer Limited Partnership
2555 South Blue Island Avenue
Chicago, IL 60608
Dear Mr. McNeil:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether Great Dane Limited Partnership ("G.D. Ltd.") and its two divisions, Pines Trailer Limited Partnership ("Pines Trailer") and Great Dane Trailers, Inc. ("Great Dane Trailers") must be assigned a new WMI (world manufacturer identifier) number. Under the new facts you have provided, the two separate divisions may keep their WMIs.
In your letter, you referred to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) letter of June 4, 1997, to your attorney, Norman Shubert, Esq. that addressed your company's situation at that time. The facts behind the June 4 letter are G.D. Ltd., a holding company (with no WMI), purchased two existing vehicle manufacturers with WMIs, Pines Trailers and Great Dane Trailers, and became their parent. The issue was whether G.D. Ltd. could use the WMIs of its two subsidiaries. In the June 4 letter, NHTSA stated that because the parent itself is not assigned a WMI, but its two divisions have separate WMIs, and will have distinct product lines, G.D. Ltd. may continue to use the WMIs assigned to the subsidiaries. Under the facts described, there would be no confusion as to which corporate entity manufactured a particular motor vehicle.
Your September 18, 1997, letter to us states that business plans have changed. Although Great Dane and Pines Trailers will continue to manufacture different types of trailers, the two divisions may now manufacture some trailers that are the same. The letter states that "these common trailers will have the same product markings regardless if they are built by Great Dane Trailers or Pines Trailers." In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that G.D. Ltd. no longer intends to keep the Great Dane and Pines Trailers names separate, distinctive trade names, and that the Pines Trailers name will eventually be phased out. However, Great Dane and Pines Trailers will be maintained as separate corporate entities, and each entity will be responsible for certifying the vehicles (pursuant to 49 CFR Part 567 Certification) it manufactures. For example, the certification label will identify the manufacturer as "Great Dane Trailer, a division of G.D. Ltd." or "Pines Trailer, a division of G.D. Ltd.," as appropriate. G.D. Ltd. will not manufacture any vehicles.
To answer your question, we must apply the regulatory provision of 49 CFR 565.4(a). That section provides that the WMI "shall uniquely identify the manufacturer, make and type of the motor vehicle if the manufacturer produces 500 or more motor vehicles of its type annually." NHTSA has previously interpreted "uniquely identify the manufacturer" to preclude the use of a WMI assigned to one manufacturer by any other manufacturer.
The primary difference between your new business plans and the plan described in our letter of June 4 is that Great Dane and Pines Trailers will no longer be advertised as separate trade names. The other facts remain the same; there are no plans for the parent company, G.D. Ltd., to manufacture motor vehicles (which would require obtaining a WMI), and within G.D. Ltd., Great Dane and Pines Trailers will remain separate entities, with each entity responsible for certifying the vehicles it manufactures. Although common vehicles built by either Great Dane or Pines will be identified with the same brand name, the certification label on each vehicle will indicate whether the vehicle was built by Great Dane or Pines.
Because the corporate structure of G.D. Ltd., as the parent company, with two subsidiaries, will remain the same, and G.D. Ltd. itself will not be manufacturing motor vehicles, we believe there would be no confusion if the separate divisions, Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers, continue to retain their own WMIs. Therefore, we agree that Pines Trailer and Great Dane Trailers may continue to use the WMI assigned to each respective entity.
Please note that because each division may continue to use the WMIs assigned to it, G.D. Ltd. must report any new types of trailers that either the Pines Trailer division or the Great Dane Trailers division will manufacture. 49 CFR Part 566 Manufacturer Identification requires manufacturers that have previously submitted identification information to keep their entries current by submitting revised information not later than 30 days after the relevant changes occur. A copy of Part 566 is enclosed for your 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