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Petition for Exemption From the Federal Motor Vehicle Motor Theft Prevention Standard; General Motors Corporation

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


Grant of petition for exemption.


This document grants in full the petition of General Motors Corporation's (GM) petition for an exemption of the Cadillac CTS vehicle line in accordance with 49 CFR part 543, Exemption from the Theft Prevention Standard. 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 (49 CFR part 541).


The exemption granted by this notice is effective beginning with model year (MY) 2011.

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Ms. Carlita Ballard, Office of International Policy, Fuel Economy, and Consumer Standards, NHTSA, W43-439, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590. Ms. Ballard's phone number is (202) 366-0846. Her fax number is (202) 493-2990.

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In a petition dated September 25, 2009, GM requested an exemption from the parts-marking requirements of the theft prevention standard (49 CFR part 541) for the Cadillac CTS vehicle line beginning with MY 2011. The petition has been filed pursuant to 49 CFR 543, Exemption from Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard, based on the installation of an antitheft device as standard equipment for the entire vehicle line.

Under § 543.5(a), a manufacturer may petition NHTSA to grant an exemption for one vehicle line per model year. In its petition, GM provided a detailed description and diagram of the identity, design, and location of the components of the antitheft device for the Cadillac CTS vehicle line. GM stated that all Cadillac CTS vehicles will be equipped with a passive, transponder-based, electronic immobilizer device as standard equipment beginning with MY 2011. Vehicles will have either the (PASS-Key III+) or the Keyless Access system. GM stated that both devices will Start Printed Page 62386provide protection against unauthorized use (i.e., starting and engine fueling), but will not provide any visible or audible indication of unauthorized vehicle entry (i.e., flashing lights or horn alarm).

The PASS-Key III+ device is designed to be active at all times without direct intervention by the vehicle operator. The system is fully armed immediately after the ignition has been turned off and the key removed. Components of the antitheft device include an electronically-coded ignition key, a PASS-Key III+ controller module and an engine control module. The ignition key contains electronics molded into the key head, providing billions of possible electronic combinations. The electronics receive energy and data from the controller module. Upon receipt of the data, the key will calculate a response to the data using secret information and an internal encryption algorithm, and transmit the response back to the vehicle. The controller module translates the radio frequency signal received from the key into a digital signal and compares the received response to an internally calculated value. If the values match, the key is recognized as valid and one of 65,534 “Vehicle Security Passwords” is transmitted to the engine control module to enable fueling and starting of the vehicle. If an invalid key code is received, the PASS-Key III+ controller module will send a “Disable Password” to the engine control module and starting, ignition, and fuel will be inhibited.

The Keyless Access device is automatically armed after the vehicle is put into the Off mode, no additional operator action is required to protect the vehicle. This system will utilize a special electronic key, two low-frequency antennas, an authorization module, a Body Control Module, and an Engine Control Module. The authorization module verifies the electronic key prior to allowing vehicle operation. Verification of the electronic code is also required to allow the transmission shift level to unlock. The electronic key resides in the form of a remote key fob in which the key fob contains buttons to perform normal remote keyless entry functions, and also contains special electronics to communicate with the vehicle without direct customer intervention. The electronic key will transmit a response via a Radio Frequency channel and the authorization module will receive the Radio Frequency transmission and compares the received response with an internally calculated response. If the values match, authorization is communicated to the Body Control Module to allow the vehicle to enter operating modes.

In addressing the specific content requirements of 543.6, GM provided information on the reliability and durability of the proposed device. To ensure reliability and durability of the device, GM conducted tests based on its own specified standards. GM stated that the design and assembly processes of the system and components are validated for a vehicle life of 10 years and 150,000 miles of performance. GM also provided a detailed list of the tests conducted used to validate integrity, durability and reliability, and after each test, components must operate as designed.

GM stated that the PASS-Key III+ system and the Keyless Access System have been designed to enhance the functionality and theft protection provided by GM's first, second and third generation PASS-Key, PASS-Key II, and PASS-Key III systems. GM also stated that there is data provided by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association to Docket 97-042; Notice 1, that in confidence, these systems will be effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft.

GM indicated that the theft rates, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), are lower for exempted GM models equipped with the electronically coded systems which have exemptions from the parts-marking requirements of 49 CFR Part 541, than the theft rates for earlier models with similar appearance and construction which were parts-marked. Based on the performance of the PASS-Key, PASS-Key II, and PASS-Key III systems on other GM models, and the advanced technology utilized in PASS-Key III+ and the Keyless Access System, GM believes that these systems will be more effective in deterring theft than the parts-marking requirements of 49 CFR Part 541. GM believes that the agency should find that inclusion of the PASS-Key III+ or the Keyless Access system on all vehicles in the Cadillac CTS line is sufficient to qualify this vehicle line for full exemption from the parts-marking requirements.

Based on the evidence submitted by GM, the agency believes that the antitheft device for the Cadillac CTS 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 541).

Based on comparison of the reduction in the theft rates of Chevrolet Corvettes using a passive theft deterrent system along with an audible/visible alarm system to the reduction in theft rates for the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird models equipped with a passive theft deterrent system without an alarm, GM finds that the lack of an alarm or attention attracting device does not compromise the theft deterrent performance of a system such as PASS-Key III+ system and the Keyless Access System.

GM's proposed device lacks an audible or visible alarm. Therefore, this 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 equipped with comparable devices that have received full exemptions from the parts-marking requirements. In these instances, the agency has concluded that the lack of a audible or visible alarm has not prevented these antitheft devices from being effective protection against theft.

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 33106 and 49 CFR 543.7(b), the agency grants a petition for exemption from the parts-marking requirements of Part 541, either in whole or in part, if it determines that, based upon substantial evidence, the standard equipment antitheft device is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with the parts-marking requirements of Part 541. The agency finds that GM has provided adequate reasons for its belief that the antitheft device for the Cadillac CTS 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). This conclusion is based on the information GM provided about its device.

The agency concludes that the device will provide four of the five 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.

For the foregoing reasons, the agency hereby grants in full GM's petition for exemption for the GM Cadillac CTS 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. Start Printed Page 62387Advanced 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 enforcement agencies of new vehicle lines exempted from the parts marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard.

If GM decides not to use the exemption for this line, it should 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 GM 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 antitheft 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: November 23, 2009.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.

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[FR Doc. E9-28440 Filed 11-25-09; 8:45 am]