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Petition for Exemption From the Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard; MAZDA

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


Grant of petition for exemption.


This document grants in full the petition of Mazda Motor Corporation, (Mazda) in accordance with § 543.9(c)(2) of 49 CFR Part 543, Exemption from the Theft Prevention Standard, for the Mazda CX-9 vehicle line beginning with model year (MY) 2008. 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) 2008.

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Ms. Deborah Mazyck, Office of International Start Printed Page 26449Vehicle, Fuel Economy and Consumer Standards, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. Ms. Mazyck's telephone number is (202) 366-0846. Her fax number is (202) 493-2290.

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In a petition dated March 8, 2007, Mazda requested an exemption from the parts-marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard (49 CFR Part 541) for the CX-9 vehicle line beginning with MY 2008. The petition requested an exemption from parts-marking pursuant to 49 CFR Part 543, Exemption from Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, based on the installation of an antitheft device as standard equipment for an entire vehicle line.

Under § 543.5(a), a manufacturer may petition NHTSA to grant exemptions for one of its vehicle lines per year. Mazda has petitioned the agency to grant an exemption for its CX-9 vehicle line beginning with MY 2008. In its petition, Mazda provided a detailed description and diagram of the identity, design, and location of the components of the antitheft device for the CX-9 vehicle line. Mazda will install its passive antitheft device as standard equipment on the vehicle line. Features of the antitheft device will include a powertrain control module, immobilizer control module, transceiver and ignition key. Mazda's submission 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.

The antitheft device to be installed on the MY 2008 Mazda CX-9 is a transponder-based electronic immobilizer system. Mazda's antitheft device is activated when the driver/operator turns off the engine using the properly coded ignition key. When the ignition key is turned to the “ON” position, the transponder (located in the head of the key) transmits a code to the powertrain's electronic control module. Mazda stated that encrypted communications exist between the immobilizer system control function and the powertrain's electronic control module. The vehicle's engine can only be started if the transponder code matches the code previously programmed into the powertrain's electronic control module. If the code does not match, the engine will be disabled. If the correct code is not transmitted to the electronic control module there is no way to mechanically override the system and start the vehicle. Furthermore, Mazda stated that drive-away thefts are virtually eliminated with the sophisticated design and operation of the electronic engine immobilizer system which makes conventional theft methods (i.e., hot-wiring or attacking the ignition-lock cylinder) ineffective.

Mazda also stated that its immobilizer system incorporates a light-emitting diode (LED) that provides information as to when the system is “set” and “unset”. When the ignition is initially turned to the “ON” position, a three-second continuous LED indicates the proper “unset” state of the device. When the ignition is turned to “OFF”, a flashing LED indicates the “set” state of the system and provides a visual confirmation that the vehicle is protected by the immobilizer system. The integration of the setting/unsetting device (transponder) into the ignition key prevents any inadvertent activation of the system.

Mazda reported that in MY 1996, the proposed system was installed on certain U.S. Ford vehicles as standard equipment (i.e. on all Ford Mustang GT and Cobra models, Ford Taurus LX, SHO and Sable LS models). The immobilizer system was installed on the Ford Mustang vehicle line as standard equipment in MY 1997. When comparing 1995 model year Mustang vehicle thefts (without immobilizer), with MY 1997 Mustang vehicle thefts (with immobilizer), data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIC) showed a 70% reduction in theft. Actual NCIC reported thefts were 500 for MY 1995 Mustang and 149 thefts for MY 1997 Mustang.)

Mazda also noted that a July 2000 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety news release compared theft loss data before and after equipping vehicles with a passive immobilizer device. It showed an average reduction of about 50 percent for vehicles with an immobilizer system.

In addressing the specific content requirements of 543.6, Mazda provided information on the reliability and durability of its proposed device. To ensure reliability and durability of the device, Mazda conducted tests based on its own specified standards. Mazda also provided a detailed list of the tests conducted and believes that the device is reliable and durable since the device complied with its specified requirements for each test. Mazda also states that its proposed device is reliable and durable because it does not have any moving parts, nor does the key require a separate battery. Any attempt to slam-pull the ignition lock cylinder, for example, will have no effect on a thief's ability to start the vehicle. Starting the vehicle is accomplished by having the correct ignition key transmit the correct code to the control module.

Mazda'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, the device cannot perform one of the functions listed in 49 CFR Part 543.6(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 devices similar to that which Mazda 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 this comparison, Mazda has concluded that the proposed antitheft device is no less effective than those devices installed on lines for which NHTSA has already granted full exemption from the parts-marking requirements.

Based on the evidence submitted by Mazda, the agency believes that the antitheft device for the Mazda CX-9 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). Based on the information Mazda provided about its device, the agency concludes that the device will provide the four types of performance listed in § 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 Part 543.6(a)(4) and (5), the agency finds that Mazda has provided adequate reasons for its belief that the antitheft device will reduce and deter theft.

For the foregoing reasons, the agency hereby grants in full Mazda's petition for exemption for the Mazda CX-9 vehicle line from the parts-marking requirements of 49 CFR Part 541. The agency notes that 49 CFR Part 541, Appendix A-1, identifies those lines that are exempted from the Theft Prevention Standard for a given model year. 49 CFR Part 543.7(f) contains publication requirements incident to the disposition of all Part 543 petitions. Advanced listing, including the release of future product nameplates, the beginning model year for which the petition is granted and a general description of the antitheft device is necessary in order to notify law Start Printed Page 26450enforcement agencies of new vehicle lines exempted from the parts-marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard.

If Mazda decides not to use the exemption for this line, it must formally notify the agency. If such a decision is made, the line must be fully marked according to the requirements under 49 CFR Parts 541.5 and 541.6 (marking of major component parts and replacement parts).

NHTSA notes that if Mazda 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. Part 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 anti-theft device on which the line's exemption is based. Further, Part 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 Part 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 3, 2007.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.

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[FR Doc. E7-8861 Filed 5-8-07; 8:45 am]