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Notice

Saleen, Inc.; Receipt of Application for a Temporary Exemption From Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Notice of receipt of application for a temporary exemption from provisions of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, Occupant crash protection.

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the procedures of 49 CFR part 555, Saleen, Inc. (Saleen) has applied for an extension of a Temporary Exemption from the automatic restraint requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, and an additional exemption from the advanced air bag requirements of that standard, both for the Saleen S7. The basis of the application is that compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried in good faith to comply with the standard.[1]

We are publishing this notice of receipt of the application in accordance with the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 30113(b)(2), and have made no judgment on the merits of the application.

DATES:

You should submit your comments not later than July 27, 2006.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Ed Glancy or Eric Stas in the Office of Chief Counsel, NCC-112, (Phone: 202-366-2992; Fax 202-366-3820).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

A manufacturer is eligible to apply for a hardship exemption if its total motor vehicle production in its most recent year of production does not exceed 10,000, as determined by the NHTSA Administrator (15 U.S.C. 1410(d)(1)). Saleen has manufactured less than 20 Saleen S7's a year between model years 2003 and 2005. Applicant's other line of business consists of altering Ford Mustang vehicles. Saleen stated that it produced approximately 1500 Saleen Mustangs in model year 2005.

In June 2001, NHTSA granted Saleen a two-year hardship exemption from the automatic restraint requirements of FMVSS No. 208 (S4.1.5.3), expiring on April 16, 2003 (66 FR 33298; June 21, 2001). On January 22, 2004, we granted a renewal of the exemption for an additional three years, expiring on September 1, 2006.[2] Saleen has applied for a renewal of that exemption as well as an exemption from the advanced air bag provisions of FMVSS No. 208 (S14.2).[3]

In September of 2005, Saleen submitted an application for further exemption from the automatic restraint requirements of FMVSS No. 208, as well as an exemption from the advanced air bag requirements of the standard. Saleen subsequently withdrew the petition, and later resubmitted the application in January of 2006. Saleen then provided supplemental information May 11, 2006.

In 2000, NHTSA upgraded the requirements for air bags in passenger cars and light trucks, requiring what is commonly known as “advanced air bags.” [4] The upgrade was designed to meet the goals of improving protection for occupants of all sizes, belted and unbelted, in moderate to high speed crashes, and of minimizing the risks posed by air bags to infants, children, and other occupants, especially in low speed crashes.

The advanced air bag requirements were a culmination of a comprehensive plan that the agency announced in 1996 to address the adverse effects of air bags. This plan also included an extensive consumer education program to encourage the placement of children in rear seats. The new requirements were phased in beginning with the 2004 model year.

Small volume manufacturers are not subject to the advanced air bag requirements until September 1, 2006, but their efforts to bring their respective vehicles into compliance with these requirements began several years ago. However, because the new requirements were challenging, major air bag suppliers concentrated their efforts on working with large-scale manufacturers and thus, until recently, small volume Start Printed Page 39393manufacturers had limited access to advanced air bag technology. Because of the nature of the requirements for protecting out-of-position occupants, “off-the-shelf” systems could not be readily adopted. Further complicating matters, because small volume manufacturers build so few vehicles, the costs of developing custom advanced air bag systems compared to potential profits discouraged some air bag suppliers from working with small volume manufacturers.

The agency has carefully tracked occupant fatalities resulting from air bag deployment. Our data indicates that the agency's efforts in the area of consumer education and manufacturers' providing de-powered air bags were successful in reducing air bag fatalities even before advanced air bag requirements were implemented.

We note that Saleen is requesting not only an exemption from the advanced air bag requirements, but also a continued exemption from the automatic restraint requirements altogether. As always, we are concerned about the potential safety implication of any temporary exemptions granted by this agency. The agency is accepting comment on granting Saleen's application.

II. Saleen's Statement of Need and Good Faith Effort

Saleen stated that its previous exemption extension request was intended to provide sufficient time for Saleen to sell and ship the Saleen S7 vehicles to generate the necessary cash flow to support the development of an air bag system that would be compliant with the advanced air bag requirements. The applicant stated that it intended to produce and sell a total of 36 vehicles by the end of 2003, with production slowly increasing to a rate of 50 vehicles per year. Saleen projected that this sales rate would have generated approximately $12.8 million in annual gross revenue by the end of 2003, which would then increase to approximately $17.8 million in annual gross revenue with the annual production of 50 vehicles. Saleen presented its actual annual sales as 13 vehicles, 8 vehicles, and 14 vehicles, in model years 2003, 2004, and 2005, respectively.

In the January 2005 application, Saleen stated that it intended to sell a total of 25 vehicles in the United States by the end of 2005, and an additional 10 vehicles in Europe. Maintaining an annual sales level of 35 vehicles, Saleen would generate a total of approximately $17.8 million. Saleen revised these projections stating that it was uncertain whether it would manufacturer the Saleen S7 for international sale, as European homologation is pending.

However, Saleen stated that increased sales of its other products in conjunction with the sales of the Saleen S7 will allow it to develop an air bag system that is compliant with FMVSS No. 208 by the end of calendar year 2008 at a cost of approximately $3.8 million. Saleen stated that this timeframe does not account for any delays, and as such, it is requesting a three year exemption, expiring September 1, 2009.

Saleen noted that in its previous application it explained that Saleen's relationship with Ford Motor Company in assisting in the manufacture of the Ford GT, an exotic sports car, would allow Saleen to rely on many of the components from the Ford GT. However, Saleen stated that the Ford GT was not manufactured as complying with the advanced air bag requirements. As such, Saleen stated that it was not able to rely on the advanced air bag technology used in the Ford GT.

Since the original air bag exemption, Saleen stated that it has hired an engineering project manger responsible for air bag development, has been working with engineers at Takata, Autoliv, and Bosch in researching all of the program requirements as well as developing a test plan and component designs for development of a system compliant with the advanced air bag requirement. Saleen also stated that it is working with Kettering University in Flint Michigan for additional research and testing.

III. Saleen's Statement of Public Interest

The applicant put forth several arguments in favor of a finding that the requested exemption is consistent with the public interest. Specifically, Saleen stated that the Saleen S7 is a unique vehicle designed and produced in the United States utilizing many domestic sourced components. If an exemption were granted Saleen stated that it would be able to maintain its current payroll of 150 full time employees and continue the purchase of domestic sourced components. Further, Saleen stated that the Saleen S7 otherwise conforms to all applicable FMVSSs.

IV. How You May Comment on the Saleen Application

We invite you to submit comments on the application described above. You may submit comments (identified by the DOT Docket number in the heading of this document) by any of the following methods:

  • Web site: http://dms.dot.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site by clicking on “Help and Information” or “Help/Info.”
  • Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
  • Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Nassif Building, Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590.
  • Hand Delivery: Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and docket number or Regulatory Identification Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. Note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://dms.dot.gov, including any personal information provided.

Docket: For access to the docket in order to read background documents or comments received, go to http://dms.dot.gov at any time or to Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.

Privacy Act: Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477-78) or you may visit http://dms.dot.gov.

We are providing a 15 day comment period in light of the short period of time between now and September 1, 2006. We shall consider all comments received before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated below. To the extent possible, we shall also consider comments filed after the closing date. We shall publish a notice of final action on the application in the Federal Register pursuant to the authority indicated below.

(49 U.S.C. 30113; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50. and 501.8)

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Issued on: July 5, 2006.

Ronald L. Medford,

Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety.

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Footnotes

1.  To view the application using the Docket number listed above, please go to: http://dms.dot.gov/​search/​searchFormSimple.cfm.

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2.  In accordance with 49 CFR 555.8(e), Saleen's original exemption remained in effect until the publication of the 2004 grant notice because the application for renewal was filed more than 60 days prior to the expiration of the exemption.

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3.  Saleen's application states that Saleen is requesting an exemption from the advanced air bag provisions, which it cited as S5.1.1(b). S5.1.1 is the advanced air bag provision for occupant crash protection requirements for the 50th percentile adult male in a frontal barrier crash test. We believe that Saleen meant to cite S14.2, which establishes all of the advanced air bag requirements, including those for the 5th percentile adult female, children, and infants.

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4.  See 65 FR 30680; May 12, 2000.

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[FR Doc. E6-10891 Filed 7-11-06; 8:45 am]

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