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Kumho Tire Co., Inc., Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

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Start Preamble

Kumho Tire Co, Inc. (Kumho) has determined that certain tires it produced in 2003 and 2004 do not comply with S4.3(d) and S4.3(e) of 49 CFR 571.109, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 109, “New pneumatic tires.” Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h), Kumho Tire 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 petition was published, with a 30-day comment period, on May 25, 2004, in the Federal Register (69 FR 29781). NHTSA received no comments.

A total of approximately 2656 tires are involved. These include 324 size 255/50R17 tires and 2332 size 255/45R17 tires. The tires are marked “Tread: Rayon 2 + Steel 2 + Nylon 2, Sidewall: Rayon 2,” when the correct stamping would be “Tread: Polyester 2 + Steel 2 + Nylon 2, Sidewall: Polyester 2.” Paragraph S4.3 of FMVSS No. 109 requires “each tire shall have permanently molded into or onto both sidewalls * * * (d) The generic name of each cord material used in the plies * * * of the tire; and (e) Actual number of plies in the sidewall, and the actual number of plies in the tread area if different.”

Kumho stated that it uses rayon and polyester body ply construction to meet the preferences of the North American and European markets, and that rayon is popular in the European market while polyester is more popular in the North American market. Kumho explained that for sizes sold in both markets, either material may be used, and the two sizes which are the subject of this petition have North American construction and European stamping.

Kumho stated that the tires meet or exceed all performance requirements of FMVSS No. 109 and will have no impact on the operational performance or safety of vehicles on which these tires Start Printed Page 44079are mounted. Therefore, Kumho believes that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety and that no corrective action is warranted.

The Transportation Recall, Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act (Public Law 106-414) required, among other things, that the agency initiate rulemaking to improve tire label information. In response, 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 on the tire labeling information required by 49 CFR sections 571.109 and 119, part 567, part 574, and part 575. In addition, the agency conducted a series of focus groups, as required by the TREAD Act, to examine consumer perceptions and understanding of tire labeling. Few of the focus group participants had knowledge of tire labeling 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 have concluded that it is likely that few consumers have been influenced by the tire construction information (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.

Therefore, the agency agrees with Kumho's statement that the incorrect markings in this case do not present a serious safety concern.[1] There is no effect of the noncompliance on the operational safety of vehicles on which these tires are mounted. In the agency's judgment, the incorrect labeling of the tire construction information will have an inconsequential effect on motor vehicle safety because most consumers do not base tire purchases or vehicle operation parameters on the number of plies in the tire. In addition, the tires are certified to meet all the performance requirements of FMVSS No. 109 and all other informational markings as required by FMVSS No. 109 are present. Kumho has corrected the problem.

In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that the petitioner has met its burden of persuasion that the noncompliance described is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, Kumho's petition is granted and the petitioner is exempted from the obligation of providing notification of, and a remedy for, the noncompliance.

Start Authority

Authority: (49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120; delegations of authority at CFR 1.50 and 501.8).

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Issued on: July 15, 2004.

Kenneth N. Weinstein,

Associate Administrator for Enforcement.

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1.  This decision is limited to its specific facts. As some commenters on the ANPRM noted, the existence of steel in a tire's sidewall can be relevant to the manner in which it should be repaired or retreaded.

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[FR Doc. 04-16840 Filed 7-22-04; 8:45 am]