Ford Motor Company
Office of the General Counsel
The American Road
Dearborn, Michigan 48121
Dear Mr. Canever:
In your letter of July 14, 1988 and in subsequent conversations, you have requested information concerning the proper classification of a new vehicle for purposes of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Program. You also requested confidentiality, to protect future product plans of the vehicles in question. The agency has agreed to protect your identity as well as details of the request which may reveal specific new or innovative features that the product may contain when produced. In the spirit of this agreement, we have described the content of your letter only to the extent deemed necessary to provide a coherent context for our response.
Specifically, you are interested in whether the agency concurs with your opinion that this vehicle would be classified as a light truck for purposes of the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) program. The vehicle has multiple purposes. You describe several features of this multipurpose vehicle, including that both the second and third seats are removable, by quick release levers in the case of the second seat, and by the use of simple tools in the case of the third seat, and that the vehicle has a variety of different seating/storage configurations. You also indicate that "[r]emoval of the second and third seat will create a flat, floor level, surface extending from the back of the front seat to the rear of the vehicle." You also describe other features of the vehicle, which need not be discussed in order to answer your letter.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not "approve" the classification of a motor vehicle. Under the statutes administered by NHTSA, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer, in the first instance, to make any necessary classifications of vehicles and to ensure that the vehicle complies with all applicable regulatory requirements. For purposes of CAFE compliance, each manufacturer must classify its vehicles consistent with the definitions contained in 49 CFR Part 523. You are interested in knowing whether the vehicle, as described above, is properly classified as a light truck for CAFE purposes. This letter provides the agency's opinion based on the facts stated above. The definition of light truck (/523.5) provides, in relevant part: (a) A light truck is an automobile other than a passenger automobile which is either designed for off-highway operation, as described in paragraph (b) of this section, or designed to perform at least one of the following functions: (1) Transport more than 10 persons; (2) Provide temporary living quarters; (3) Transport property on an open bed; (4) Provide greater cargo-carrying than passenger-carrying volume; or (5) Permit expanded use of the automobile for cargo-carrying purposes or other nonpassenger-carrying purposes through the removal of seats by means installed for that purpose by the automobile's manufacturer or with simple tools, such as screwdrivers and wrenches, so as to create a flat, floor level, surface extending from the forwardmost point of installation of those seats to the rear of the automobile's interior.
Your letter clearly indicates that both the second and third seats are removable easily, and when they are removed, what remains is a flat, floor level surface extending from the back of the front seat to the rear of the vehicle. It appears from the description you have provided the agency that your vehicle would qualify as a light truck under /523.5(a)(5).
We note that this conclusion does not constitute or imply an opinion as to whether the vehicle would be classified as a passenger car, multipurpose passenger vehicle or truck for purposes of the safety standards. Definitions for classification purposes under the safety standards may be found in /571.3 of 49 CFR.
Erika Z. Jones Chief Counsel
/ref: 523 d:2/3/89