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

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Michelin North America, Inc. (MNA) has determined that approximately 31,266 Michelin Pilot Sport/Alpin tires have been imported into the United States with sidewall markings that do not meet the labeling requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 109 “New Pneumatic Tires.

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h), MNA 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 October 14, 2003, in the Federal Register (68 FR 59235). NHTSA received no comment on this application.

The affected tires are those whose sidewalls labeling includes a maximum psi inflation pressure marking which rounds from the metric value to the nearest whole number (in this case down), rather than rounding up to the next higher whole number as specified by FMVSS No. 109 S4.3.4 (a). The tires in question meet or exceed all other requirements of FMVSS 109. The provisions of FMVSS No. 109 applicable to 340 kPa tires that are the subject of the petition require that the psi units be rounded “to the next higher whole number” even when the nearest whole number, would require rounding down, rather than up. The correct marking for the maximum inflation pressure required by FMVSS No. 109 for these tires is: “340 kPa (50 psi).” The Start Printed Page 10162noncompliant tires were incorrectly marked: “340 kPa (49 psi).” The actual conversion of 340 kPa to psi units yields 49.35 psi before rounding to whole numbers (340 kPa divided by a conversion factor of 6.895 equals 49.35 psi).

The labeling requirements of FMVSS No. 109 New Pneumatic Tire S4.3.4 (a) mandate that each tire have permanently molded into or onto both sidewalls the maximum permissible inflation pressure in pounds per inch (psi) rounded to the next higher whole number.

MNA argues that this noncompliance will have no impact on either the performance of the tire on a motor vehicle, or on motor vehicle safety itself. MNA argues that NHTSA has recently studied the impact of tire labeling information on safety in the context of its rulemaking efforts under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act. This analysis found that sidewall maximum inflation pressure labeling is poorly understood by the general public, and indicated that those consumers that are aware of sidewall maximum inflation pressure labeling commonly misuse this information. A number of commenters on both the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for tire labeling recommended that the maximum inflation pressure labeling be removed from the sidewall because of its limited safety value and its propensity to confuse consumers. NHTSA ultimately decided to retain maximum inflation pressure labeling requirements as an aid in preventing over-inflation. The mislabeling issue in this case will in no way contribute to the risk of over-inflation because the value actually marked is lower than the value required by the regulations.

Also, MNA states that, this mislabeling is clearly inconsequential with respect to safety for all of the following stated reasons: (1) The noncompliance is one solely of rounding to the nearest whole number and labeling; (2) The actual labeling is one psi less than that required by the regulation; (3) Rounding 49.35 psi to 49 psi, the nearest whole number, is more accurate in this case than rounding to the next higher whole number (50) as required by the regulations; (4) All performance requirements of FMVSS No. 109 are met or exceeded; (5) These tires are marked with the correct metric maximum inflation pressure (as allowed by FMVSS No. 109 and as shown on pages 1-32 of the 2003 Tire and Rim Association yearbook); (6) Use of the sidewall label as a source of information for the maximum inflation pressure will not increase the risk of over-inflation of the tire because the actual value is lower than both the actual maximum inflation pressure (by 0.35 psi) and lower than the 50 psi value required for these tires by the regulations; (7) Incorrect use of the sidewall label maximum inflation pressure as a source of information for the recommended inflation pressure will not result in an overloading of the tires or reduce the load capacity of the tires because the 49 psi conversion still remains 8 psi greater than that required to carry the maximum load for these tires. In fact, 340 kPa (50psi) is the higher of two alternative choices for the maximum inflation pressure provided for this tire's load rating per The Tire and Rim Association yearbook. Consequently, MNA believes that the foregoing noncompliance will have an inconsequential impact on motor vehicle safety.

NHTSA 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. In this case, MNA selected the lower inflation pressure provided for this tire's load rating per The Tire and Rim Association yearbook. Except for the one psi understated maximum permissible inflation pressure on the sidewall, the subject tires are properly labeled and constructed in accordance with FMVSS No. 109. This labeling noncompliance has no effect on the performance of the subject tires.

In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that the applicant has met its burden of persuasion that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, its application is granted and the applicant is exempted from providing the notification of the noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118, and from remedying the noncompliance, as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120.

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

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Issued on: February 18, 2005.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.

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[FR Doc. 05-3988 Filed 3-1-05; 8:45 am]