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Petition for Exemption From the Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard; Ford

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT).


Grant of petition for exemption.

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This document grants in full the petition of Ford Motor Company (Ford) for an exemption of a high-theft line, the Lincoln Town Car, from the parts-marking requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard. This petition is granted because the agency has determined that the antitheft device to be placed on the line as standard equipment is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with the parts-marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard.


The exemption granted by this notice is effective beginning with model year (MY) 2003.

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Ms. Rosalind Proctor, Office of Planning and Consumer Programs, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington DC 20590. Ms. Proctor's telephone number is (202) 366-0846. Her fax number is (202) 493-2290.

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In a petition dated January 25, 2002, Ford requested an exemption from the parts marking requirements of 49 CFR part 541, Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, for the Lincoln Town Car vehicle line beginning in MY 2003. The petition was filed pursuant to 49 CFR part 543, Exemption from Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, based on the installation of an antitheft device as standard equipment for the entire line. Based on the evidence submitted by Ford, the agency believes that the antitheft device for the Ford Lincoln Town Car vehicle line is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with the parts-marking requirements of the theft prevention standard (49 CFR part 541).

Section 331066(b)(2)(D) of Title 49, United States Code, authorized the Secretary of Transportation to grant an exemption from the parts-marking requirements for not more than one additional line of a manufacturer for MYs 1997-2000. However, it does not address the contingency of what to do after model year 2000 in the absence of a decision under Section 33103(d). 49 U.S.C. 33103(d)(3) states that the number of lines for which the agency can grant an exemption is to be decided after the Attorney General completes a review of the effectiveness of antitheft devices and finds that antitheft devices are an effective substitute for parts-marking. The Attorney General has not yet made a finding and has not decided the number of lines, if any, for which the agency will be authorized to grant an exemption. Upon consultation with the Department of Justice, we determined that the appropriate reading of Section 33103(d) is that NHTSA may continue to grant parts-marking exemptions for not more than one additional model line each year, as specified for model years 1997-2000 by 49 U.S.C. 33106(b)(2)(C). This is the level contemplated by the Act for the period before the Attorney General's decision. The final decision on whether to continue granting exemptions will be made by the Attorney General at the conclusion of the review pursuant to Section 330103(d)(3).

Ford's submittal is considered a complete petition, as required by 49 CFR 543.7, in that it meets the general requirements contained in § 543.5 and the specific content requirements of § 543.6. Ford requested confidential treatment for information and attachments in support of its petition. In a letter to the manufacturer dated March 14, 2002, the agency granted Ford's request for confidential treatment of its petition.

In its petition, Ford provided a detailed description and diagram of the identity, design, and location of the components of the antitheft device for the line. Ford will install its antitheft device, the SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft Electronic Engine Immobilizer System (SecuriLock) as standard equipment on the MY 2003 Lincoln Town Car. The system has been voluntarily installed as standard equipment on its Lincoln Town Car line since MY 1998.

In order to ensure the reliability and durability of the device, Ford conducted tests, based on its own specified standards. Ford provided a detailed list of the tests conducted and stated its belief that the device is reliable and durable since it complied with Ford's specified requirements for each test. The environmental and functional tests conducted were for thermal shock, high temperature exposure, low-temperature exposure, powered/thermal cycle, temperature/humidity cycling, constant humidity, end-of-line, functional, random vibration, tri-temperature parametric, bench drop, transmit current, lead/lock strength/integrity, output frequency, resistance to solvents, output field strength, dust, and electromagnetic compatibility.

The Ford SecuriLock is a transponder-based electronic immobilizer system. The device is activated when the driver/operator turns off the engine by using the properly coded ignition key. When the ignition key is turned to the start position, the transponder (located in the head of the key) transmits a code to the powertrain's electronic control module (PCM). The vehicle's engine can only be started if the transponder code matches the code previously 2 programmed into the powertrain's electronic control module. If the code does not match, the engine will be disabled.

Ford stated that there are four quadrillion different codes and each transponder is hard-coded with a unique code at the time of vehicle assembly. Additionally, Ford stated that communication between the SecuriLock transponder and the powertrain's electronic control module is encrypted, making key duplication nearly impossible.

Ford stated that its SecuriLock system incorporates a theft indicator using a light-emitting diode (LED) that provides a visual indicator to the driver/operator as to the “set” and “unset” condition of the device. When the ignition is initially turned to the “ON” position, a 3-second continuous LED indicates that the device is “unset.” When the ignition is turned to “OFF,” a flashing LED indicates the device is “set” and provides visual information that the vehicle is protected by the SecuriLock system. Ford states that the integration of the setting/unsetting device (transponder) into the ignition key assures activation of the device.

Ford believes that its new device is reliable and durable because its does not have any moving parts, nor does it require a separate battery in the key. If the correct code is not transmitted to the electronic control module (accomplished only by having the correct key), there is no way to mechanically override the system and start the vehicle. Furthermore, Ford stated that with the sophisticated design and operation of the electronic engine immobilizer system, conventional theft methods are ineffective (i.e., hot-wiring or attacking the ignition-lock cylinder). Ford reemphasized that any attempt to slam-pull the ignition-lock cylinder will have no effect on a thief's ability to start the vehicle.

Ford stated that the effectiveness of its SecuriLock device is best reflected in the reduction of the theft rates for its Mustang GT and Cobra models from MY 1995 to 1996. The SecuriLock antitheft device was voluntarily installed on all Mustang GT and Cobra models, and the Taurus LX and SHO models as standard equipment in MY 1996. In MY 1997, the SecuriLock system was installed on the entire Mustang vehicle line as standard equipment. Ford notes that a comparison of the National Crime Information Center's (NCIC) calendar year (CY)1995 theft data for MY 1995 Mustang GT and Cobra vehicles without an immobilizer device installed with MY 1997 data for Mustang GT and Start Printed Page 35191Cobra vehicles with an immobilizer device installed, shows a reduction in thefts of approximately 70% for the vehicles with the immobilizer. With the introduction of SecuriLock on all 2000 Taurus models, the NCIC data show a 63% drop in theft rate compared with the non-SecuriLock equipped 1999 Taurus models.

As part of its submission, Ford also provided a Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) theft loss bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 1, September 1997, which evaluated 1996 Ford Mustang and Taurus models fitted with the SecuriLock device and corresponding 1995 models without the SecuriLock device. The results as reported by HLDI indicated a reduction in overall theft losses by approximately 50% for both Mustang and Taurus models.

Additionally, Ford stated that its SecuriLock device has been demonstrated to various insurance companies, and as a result AAA Michigan and State Farm now give an antitheft discount for all Ford vehicles equipped with the SecuriLock device.

Ford's proposed device, as well as other comparable devices that have received full exemptions from the parts-marking requirements, lacks an audible or visible alarm. Therefore, these devices cannot perform one of the functions listed in 49 CFR part 542.6(a)(3), that is, to call attention to unauthorized attempts to enter or move the vehicle. However, theft data have indicated a decline in theft rates for vehicle lines that have been equipped with antitheft devices similar to that which Ford proposes. In these instances, the agency has concluded that the lack of a visual or audio alarm has not prevented these antitheft devices from being effective protection against theft.

On the basis of comparison, Ford has concluded that the antitheft device proposed for its vehicle line is no less effective than those devices in the lines for which NHTSA has granted full exemptions from the parts-marking requirements.

Based on the evidence submitted by Ford, the agency believes that the antitheft device for the Lincoln Town Car vehicle line is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with the parts-marking requirements of the theft prevention standard (49 CFR part 541).

The agency believes that the device will provide four of the five types of performance listed in 49 CFR 543.6(a)(3): promoting activation; preventing defeat or circumvention of the device by unauthorized persons; preventing operation of the vehicle by unauthorized entrants; and ensuring the reliability and durability of the device.

As required by 49 U.S.C. 33106 and 49 CFR 543.6(a)(4) and (5), the agency finds that Ford has provided adequate reasons for its belief that the antitheft device will reduce and deter theft. This conclusion is based on the information Ford provided about its antitheft device.

For the foregoing reasons, the agency hereby grants in full Ford Motor Company's petition for an exemption for the MY 2003 Lincoln Town Car vehicle line from the parts-marking requirements of 49 CFR part 541.

If Ford decides not to use the exemption for this line, it must formally notify the agency, and, thereafter, must fully mark the line as required by 49 CFR 541.5 and 541.6 (marking of major component parts and replacement parts).

NHTSA notes that if Ford wishes in the future to modify the device on which this exemption is based, the company may have to submit a petition to modify the exemption. Section 543.7(d) states that a Part 543 exemption applies only to vehicles that belong to a line exempted under this part and equipped with the antitheft device on which the line's exemption is based. Further, § 543.9(c)(2) provides for the submission of petitions to modify an exemption to permit the use of an antitheft device similar to but differing from the one specified in that exemption. The agency wishes to minimize the administrative burden that § 543.9(c)(2) could place on exempted vehicle manufacturers and itself. The agency did not intend in drafting part 543 to require the submission of a modification petition for every change to the components or design of an antitheft device. The significance of many such changes could be de minimis. Therefore, NHTSA suggests that if the manufacturer contemplates making any changes, the effects of which might be characterized as de minimis, it should consult the agency before preparing and submitting a petition to modify.

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Authority: 49 U.S.C. 33106; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

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Issued on: May 13, 2002.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.

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[FR Doc. 02-12424 Filed 5-16-02; 8:45 am]