Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai), has determined that certain replacement seat belt assemblies sold for various model and model year Hyundai vehicles, including 2008 model year vehicles, did not fully comply with paragraphs S4.1(k) and S4.1(l) of 49 CFR 571.209 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) No. 209 Seat Belt Assemblies. Hyundai has filed an appropriate report pursuant to 49 CFR Part 573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility and Reports.
Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and the rule implementing those provisions at 49 CFR Part 556, Hyundai has petitioned for an Start Printed Page 9126exemption from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Notice of receipt of the petition was published, with a 30-day public comment period, on August 20, 2008 in the Federal Register (73 FR 49238). No comments were received. To view the petition and all supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online search instructions to locate docket number “NHTSA-2008-0133.”
For further information on this decision, contact Ms. Claudia Covell, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366-5293, facsimile (202) 366-7002.
Affected are an unknown number of replacement seat belt assemblies sold for various model and model year Hyundai vehicles prior to May 9, 2008.
Paragraphs S4.1(k) and S4.1(l) of FMVSS No. 209 require:
(k) Installation instructions. A seat belt assembly, other than a seat belt assembly installed in a motor vehicle by an automobile manufacturer, shall be accompanied by an instruction sheet providing sufficient information for installing the assembly in a motor vehicle. The installation instructions shall state whether the assembly is for universal installation or for installation only in specifically stated motor vehicles, and shall include at least those items specified in SAE Recommended Practice J800c, “Motor Vehicle Seat Belt Installations,” November 1973. If the assembly is for use only in specifically stated motor vehicles, the assembly shall either be permanently and legibly marked or labeled with the following statement, or the instruction sheet shall include the following statement:
This seat belt assembly is for use only in [insert specific seating position(s), e.g., “front right”] in [insert specific vehicle make(s) and model(s)].
(l) Usage and maintenance instructions. A seat belt assembly or retractor shall be accompanied by written instructions for the proper use of the assembly, stressing particularly the importance of wearing the assembly snugly and properly located on the body, and on the maintenance of the assembly and periodic inspection of all components. The instructions shall show the proper manner of threading webbing in the hardware of seat belt assemblies in which the webbing is not permanently fastened. Instructions for a nonlocking retractor shall include a caution that the webbing must be fully extended from the retractor during use of the seat belt assembly unless the retractor is attached to the free end of webbing which is not subjected to any tension during restraint of an occupant by the assembly. Instructions for Type 2a shoulder belt shall include a warning that the shoulder belt is not to be used without a lap belt.
Hyundai explains that the subject replacement seat belt assemblies were sold without the installation, usage, and maintenance instructions required by paragraphs S4.1(k) and S4.1(1) of FMVSS 209.
Hyundai makes the argument that the replacement seat belt assemblies in question are only made available to Hyundai authorized dealerships for their use or subsequent resale and that the Hyundai parts ordering process used by its dealers clearly identifies the correct replacement part required by model year, model, and seating position. Furthermore, Hyundai states that its replacement seat belt assemblies are designed to be installed properly only in their intended application.
Hyundai additionally states that technicians at Hyundai dealerships that replace seat belts have access to the installation instruction information available in Hyundai Shop Manuals. Installers other than Hyundai dealership technicians also have seat belt installation information available because Hyundai Shop Manual information, including seat belt replacement information, is made available to the general public on the Hyundai Service Web site (http://www.hmaservice.com) which provides free access to every Hyundai Shop Manual, including information about seat belt installation.
Hyundai additionally argues that a significant portion of paragraph S4.1(k) appears to address a concern with proper installation of aftermarket seat belts into vehicles that were not originally equipped with these restraints. Hyundai also notes that SAE J800c, which is cited in the regulation, involves installation of “universal type seat belt assemblies,” particularly where no seat belt had previously been installed, and that these concerns do not apply to replacement seat belts. The vehicles involved in this petition have uniquely designed seat belt components and replacement seat belt assemblies are installed into the identical location from which the original parts were removed.
Hyundai also states that proper seat belt usage instructions are clearly explained in the Owner's Manual that is included with each new vehicle. Information concerning maintenance, periodic inspection for wear and function of the seat belts, as well as for their proper usage is included in the vehicle Owner Manual and this information equally applies to replacement seat belt assemblies.
Hyundai first became aware of the noncompliance when it was contacted by NHTSA in response to a consumer inquiry received by NHTSA.
Hyundai also stated that it has corrected the problem that caused these errors so that they will not be repeated in future production.
In summation, Hyundai states that it believes that because the noncompliances are inconsequential to motor vehicle safety that no corrective action is warranted.
To help ensure proper selection, installation, usage, and maintenance of seat belt assemblies, paragraph S4.1(k) of FMVSS No. 209 requires that installation, usage, and maintenance instructions be provided with seat belt assemblies, other than those installed by an automobile manufacturer.
First, we note that the subject seat belt assemblies are only made available to Hyundai authorized dealerships for their use or subsequent resale. Because the parts ordering process used by Hyundai authorized dealerships clearly identifies the correct service part required by model year, model, and seating position, NHTSA believes that there is little likelihood that an inappropriate seat belt assembly will be provided for a specific seating position within a Hyundai vehicle.
Second, we note that technicians at Hyundai dealerships have access to the seat belt assembly installation instruction information in Hyundai Shop Manuals. In addition, installers other than Hyundai dealership technicians can access the installation instructions on the Hyundai Web sites and through other aftermarket service information compilers. We also believe that Hyundai is correct in stating that the seat belt assemblies are designed to be installed properly only in their intended application. Thus, we conclude that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent the installation of an improper seat belt assembly.
NHTSA recognizes the importance of having installation instructions available to installers and use and maintenance instructions available to consumers. The risk created by this noncompliance is that someone who purchased an assembly is unable to obtain the necessary installation information resulting in an incorrectly installed seat belt assembly. However, because the seat belt assemblies are designed to be installed properly only in their intended application and the installation information is widely available to the public, it appears that there is little likelihood that installers will not be able to access the installation instructions. Furthermore, we note that Start Printed Page 9127Hyundai has stated that they are not aware of any customer field reports of service seat belt assemblies being incorrectly installed in the subject applications, nor aware of any reports requesting installation instructions. These findings suggest that it is unlikely that seat belts have been improperly installed.
In addition, although 49 CFR Part 571.209 paragraph S4.1(k) requires certain instructions specified in SAE Recommended Practice J800c be included in seat belt replacement instructions, that requirement applies to seat belts intended to be installed in seating positions where seat belts do not already exist. The subject seat belt assemblies are only intended to be used for replacement of original equipment seat belts; therefore, the instructions do not apply to the subject seat belt assemblies.
With respect to seat belt usage and inspection instructions, we note that this information is available in the Owner Handbooks that are included with each new vehicle as well as free of charge on the Hyundai Web sites and apply to the replacement seat belt assemblies installed in these vehicles. Thus, with respect to usage and maintenance instructions, it appears that Hyundai has met the intent of S4.1(l) of FMVSS No. 209 for the subject vehicles using alternate methods for notification.
NHTSA has granted similar petitions for noncompliance with seat belt assembly installation and usage instruction standards. Refer to Ford Motor Company (73 FR 11462, March 3, 2008); Mazda North America Operations (73 FR 11464, March 3, 2008); Ford Motor Company (73 FR 63051, October 22, 2008); Subaru of America, Inc. (65 FR 67471, November 9, 2000); Bombardier Motor Corporation of America, Inc. (65 FR 60238, October 10, 2000); TRW, Inc. (58 FR 7171, February 4, 1993); and Chrysler Corporation, (57 FR 45865, October 5, 1992). In all of these cases, the petitioners demonstrated that the noncompliant seat belt assemblies were properly installed, and due to their respective replacement parts ordering systems, improper replacement seat belt assembly selection and installation would not be likely to occur.
In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that Hyundai has met its burden of persuasion that the seatbelt installation and usage instruction noncompliances described are inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, Hyundai's application is granted, and it is exempted from providing the notification of noncompliance that is required by 49 U.S.C. 30118, and from remedying the noncompliance, as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120. All products manufactured or sold on and after May 9, 2008, must comply fully with the requirements of FMVSS No. 209.Start Signature
Issued on: February 24, 2009.
Daniel C. Smith,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. E9-4275 Filed 2-27-09; 8:45 am]
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