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Michelin North America, Inc.; Grant of Application for Decision That Noncompliance Is Inconsequential to Motor Vehicle Safety

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Michelin North America, Inc., (Michelin), determined that approximately 173,800 205/55R16 Michelin Energy MXV4+ tires do not meet the labeling requirements mandated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 109, “New Pneumatic Tires.” FMVSS No. 109 requires that each tire shall have permanently molded into or onto both sidewalls the generic name of each cord material used in the plies of the tire (S4.3 (d)).

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h), Michelin has petitioned for a determination that this noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety and has filed an appropriate report pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, “Defect and Noncompliance Reports.”

Notice of receipt of the application was published, with a 30-day comment period, on August 9, 2001, in the Federal Register (66 FR 41931). NHTSA received no comments on this application. During the period of the 4th week of 2000 through the 9th week of 2001, the subject tires were produced and cured with the erroneous marking. Instead of the required marking of: Start Printed Page 1400Tread Plies − 2 Polyester + 2 Steel + 1 Polyamide, Sidewall Plies − 2 polyester, the tires were marked: Tread Plies − 2 Rayon + 2 Steel + 1 Polyamide, Sidewall Plies − 2 Rayon. Of the total, approximately 162,500 tires may have been delivered to customers. The remaining tires have been identified in Michelin's warehouse.

Michelin stated that these tires meet or exceed all FMVSS No. 109 performance requirements and, therefore, this noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety.

The Transportation Recall, Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act of November 2000 required, among other things, that the agency initiate rulemaking to improve tire label information. In response to Section 11 of the TREAD Act, the agency published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register on December 1, 2000 (65 FR 75222). The agency received more than 20 comments addressing the ANPRM, which sought comments on the tire labeling information required by 49 CFR 571.109 and 571.119, part 567, part 574, and part 575. Most of the comments were from motor vehicle and tire manufacturers, although several private citizens and consumer interest organizations responded to the ANPRM. With regard to the tire construction (number of plies and type of ply cord material in the tread and sidewall) labeling requirements of FMVSS 109, paragraphs S4.3 (d) and (e), most comments indicated that the information was of little or no safety value to consumers. However, the tire construction information is valuable to the tire re-treading, repair, and recycling industries, according to several trade groups representing tire manufacturing. The International Tire and Rubber Association, Inc., (ITRA) indicated that the tire construction information is used by tire technicians to determine the steel content of a tire so that proper retread, repair, and recycling procedures can be selected.

In addition to the written comments solicited by the ANPRM, the agency conducted a series of focus groups, as required by the TREAD Act, to examine consumer perception and understanding of tire labeling. Few of the focus group participants had knowledge of tire label information beyond the tire brand name, tire size, and tire pressure.

Based on the information obtained from comments to the ANPRM and the consumer focus groups, we believe that it is likely that few consumers are influenced by the tire construction information (i.e., the number of plies and cord material in the sidewall and tread plies) provided on the tire label when deciding to buy a motor vehicle or tire. However, the tire repair, retread, and recycling industries use the tire construction information.

The agency believes that the true measure of inconsequentiality to motor vehicle safety in this case is the effect of the noncompliance on the operational safety of vehicles on which these tires are mounted. The safety of people working in the tire retread, repair, and recycling industries must also be considered. Although tire construction affects the strength and durability, neither the agency nor the tire industry provides information relating tire strength and durability to the number of plies and types of ply cord material in the tread and sidewall. Therefore, tire dealers and customers should consider the tire construction information along with other information such as the load capacity, maximum inflation pressure, and tread wear, temperature, and traction ratings, to assess performance capabilities of various tires. In the agency's judgment, specifying rayon instead of polyester for tire construction will have an inconsequential effect on motor vehicle safety because most consumers do not base tire purchases or vehicle operation parameters on tire construction information. The agency also believes the noncompliance will have no measurable effect on the safety of the tire retread, repair, and recycling industries. The use of steel cord construction in the sidewall and tread is the primary safety concern of these industries, according to ITRA. In this case, the fact that steel is used in the tread construction of the tires appears on the sidewalls. In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that the applicant has met the burden of persuasion and that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, Michelin's application is granted and the applicant is exempted from providing the notification of the noncompliance that would be required by 49 U.S.C. 30118, and from remedying the noncompliance, as would be required by 49 U.S.C. 30120.

(49 U.S.C. 301118, 301120; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.8)

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Issued on: January 4, 2002.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.

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[FR Doc. 02-656 Filed 1-9-02; 8:45 am]