Grant of Petition.
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (Mitsubishi) 
has determined that an unknown number of replacement seat belts that it imported do not include the installation, usage and maintenance instructions required by paragraphs S4.1(k) and S4.1(l) of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies. Mitsubishi filed an appropriate report dated October 25, 2010, 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, Mitsubishi has petitioned for an exemption 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 January 7, 2011 in the Federal Register (76 FR 1210). 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-2010-0176.”
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.
Equipment involved: Mitsubishi explained that an unknown number of nonconforming seat belt assemblies were sold by Mitsubishi to its authorized dealers in the United States for resale and replacement purposes.
Noncompliance: Mitsubishi described the noncompliance as the failure to provide installation, use and maintenance instructions with the seat belt assemblies as required in FMVSS No. 209 S4.1(k) and S4.1(l).
Summary of Mitsubishi's Analysis and Arguments
Mitsubishi argues that this noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety for the following reasons:
(1) The service seat belt assemblies in question are only made available to Mitsubishi authorized dealerships for their use or subsequence resale. The Mitsubishi parts ordering system used by Mitsubishi dealers clearly identifies the correct service seat belt components for any given model/model year/seat position combination and the parts are unique to each seat belt and designed to assemble properly only in their intended application.
(2) When ordering Mitsubishi replacement seat belt parts, the dealer must refer to the Mitsubishi parts catalog to identify the ordering part number with the information on the specific vehicle model type, location and model year. Each replacement seat belt assembly is packaged individually with a specific part number label to ensure shipping the correct parts. Dealers routinely confirm that the part received matches their order to validate that the correct parts were received.
(3) Installation instructions for seat belts are readily available in the Mitsubishi workshop manuals. Technicians at Mitsubishi dealerships that replace seat belts have access to the installation instruction information in the workshop manual. Installers other than Mitsubishi dealership technicians also have seat belt installation information available in the workshop manuals and are available on the Mitsubishi Service Web site (www.mitsubishitechinfo.com). As a result, the seat belt parts can be successfully installed with the information already available even though installation instructions were not accompanied in the replacement seat belt assemblies.
(4) Instructions for proper use and maintenance are described in the owner's manual which is installed in each vehicle. Therefore, incorrect usage and maintenance by the vehicle owner is highly unlikely.
Mitsubishi is also not aware of any customer or field reports of replacement seat belt assemblies being incorrectly installed in the subject applications as a result of the absence of the installation instructions in the service part. Mitsubishi also is not aware of any reports requesting the installation instructions, which Mitsubishi believes is indicative of the availability of this information from the other sources mentioned above.
Finally, Mitsubishi has taken action to ensure that all replacement seat belt assemblies are packaged with the required installation instructions and has corrected all the replacement seat belt assemblies in the inventory for shipment to dealers.
In summation, Mitsubishi believes that the described noncompliance of its replacement seat belt assemblies is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that its petition, to exempt from providing recall notification of noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the recall noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.
Requirement Background: 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.
NHTSA's Analysis of Mitsubishi's Reasoning: First, we note that the subject seat belt assemblies are only made available to Mitsubishi authorized dealerships for their use or subsequent resale. Because the parts ordering process used by Mitsubishi 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 Mitsubishi vehicle.
Second, we note that technicians at Mitsubishi dealerships have access to the seat belt assembly installation instruction information in Mitsubishi Shop Manuals. In addition, installers other than Mitsubishi dealership technicians can access the installation instructions from Mitsubishi service manuals, Mitsubishi dealers or from aftermarket service information compilers. We also believe that Mitsubishi 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 as well as 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 Mitsubishi 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 and apply to the replacement seat belt assemblies installed in these vehicles. Thus, with respect to usage and maintenance instructions, it appears that Mitsubishi 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 Hyundai Motor Company (74 FR 9125, March 2, 209); 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. Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that Mitsubishi has met its burden of persuasion that the FMVSS No. 209 noncompliance in the replacement seat belts identified in Mitsubishi's Noncompliance Information Report is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, Mitsubishi's petition is granted and the petitioner is exempted from the obligation of providing notification of, and a remedy for, that noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 30120.
NHTSA notes that the statutory provisions (49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h)) that permit manufacturers to file petitions for a determination of inconsequentiality allow NHTSA to exempt manufacturers only from the duties found in sections 30118 and 30120, respectively, to notify owners, purchasers, and dealers of a defect or noncompliance and to remedy the defect or noncompliance. Therefore, this decision only applies to the replacement seat belt assemblies that Mitsubishi no longer controlled at the time that it determined that a noncompliance existed in the subject vehicles.
Issued on: April 18, 2012.
Claude H. Harris,
Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2012-9946 Filed 4-24-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P