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Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Receipt of Petition for Temporary Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Aston Martin

Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Receipt of Petition for Temporary Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214

Claude H. Harris
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
March 27, 2014


[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 59 (Thursday, March 27, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 17231-17233]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-06834]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0032]


Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Receipt of Petition for Temporary 
Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214

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

ACTION: Notice of receipt of a petition for a temporary exemption from 
new requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 
214, Side impact protection; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the procedures in 49 CFR part 555, Aston 
Martin Lagonda Limited (Aston Martin) has petitioned the agency for a 
temporary exemption from new pole and moving deformable barrier test 
requirements of FMVSS No. 214. The petitioner states that compliance 
would cause Aston Martin substantial economic hardship and that it has 
tried in good faith to comply with the standard. NHTSA is publishing 
this document in accordance with statutory and administrative 
provisions, and requests comments on the petition. NHTSA has made no 
judgment on the merits of the petition.

DATES: If you would like to comment on the petition, you should submit 
your comment not later than April 28, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Deirdre Fujita, Office of the Chief 
Counsel, NCC-112, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: 
(202) 366-2992; Fax: (202) 366-3820.

ADDRESSES: You may submit your comment, identified by the docket number 
in the heading of this document, by any of the following methods:
     Web site: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments on the electronic docket site by 
clicking on ``Help and Information'' or ``Help/Info.''
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket 
Operations, M-30, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, 
DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building 
Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 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.
    Note that all comments received will be posted without change to 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided. Please see the Privacy Act discussion below. We will consider 
all comments received before the close of business on the comment 
closing date indicated above. To the extent possible, we will also 
consider comments filed after the closing date.
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov at any time or to 
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal Holidays. Telephone: (202) 366-9826.
    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://www.dot.gov/privacy.html.
    Confidential Business Information: If you wish to submit any 
information under a claim of confidentiality, you should submit three 
copies of your complete submission, including the information you claim 
to be confidential business information, to the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, 
at the address given under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. In 
addition, you should submit a copy, from which you have deleted the 
claimed confidential business information, to Docket Management at the 
address given above. When you send a comment containing information 
claimed to be confidential business information, you should include a 
cover letter setting forth the information specified in our 
confidential business information regulation (49 CFR part 512).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

a. Statutory Authority for Temporary Exemptions

    The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act), 
codified as 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, provides the Secretary of 
Transportation authority to exempt, on a temporary basis and under 
specified circumstances, motor vehicles from a motor vehicle safety 
standard or bumper standard. This authority is set forth at 49 U.S.C. 
30113. The Secretary has delegated the authority for implementing this 
section to NHTSA.
    In recognition of the more limited resources and capabilities of 
small manufacturers, authority to grant exemptions based on substantial 
economic hardship and good faith efforts is provided in the Safety Act 
to enable the agency to give those manufacturers additional time to 
comply with the Federal safety standards. The Safety Act authorizes the 
Secretary to grant a temporary exemption to a manufacturer whose total 
motor vehicle production in the most recent year of production is not 
more than 10,000 motor vehicles, on such terms as the Secretary deems 
appropriate, if the exemption would be consistent with the public 
interest and the Safety Act and ``compliance with the standard would 
cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried to 
comply with the standard in good faith.'' (49 U.S.C. 
30113(b)(3)(B)(i).)
    NHTSA established 49 CFR part 555, Temporary Exemption from Motor 
Vehicle Safety and Bumper Standards, to implement the statutory 
provisions concerning temporary exemptions. Under Part 555, a 
petitioner must provide specified information in submitting a petition 
for exemption. These requirements are specified in 49 CFR 555.5, and 
include a number of items. Foremost among them are that the petitioner 
must set forth the basis of the application under Sec.  555.6, and the 
reasons why the exemption would be in the public interest and 
consistent with the objectives of the Safety Act (49

[[Page 17232]]

U.S.C. Chapter 301).\1\ A manufacturer is eligible to apply for a 
hardship exemption if its total motor vehicle production in its most 
recent year of production did not exceed 10,000 vehicles, as determined 
by the NHTSA Administrator (49 U.S.C. 30113).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ While 49 U.S.C. 30113(b) states that exemptions from a 
Safety Act standard are to be granted on a ``temporary basis,'' (49 
U.S.C. 30113(b)(1)), the statute also expressly provides for renewal 
of an exemption on reapplication. Manufacturers are nevertheless 
cautioned that the agency's decision to grant an initial petition in 
no way predetermines that the agency will repeatedly grant renewal 
petitions, thereby imparting semi-permanent status to an exemption 
from a safety standard. Exempted manufacturers seeking renewal must 
bear in mind that the agency is directed to consider financial 
hardship as but one factor, along with the manufacturer's ongoing 
good faith efforts to comply with the regulation, the public 
interest, consistency with the Safety Act, generally, as well as 
other such matters provided in the statute.
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b. FMVSS No. 214

    In 2007, NHTSA published a final rule upgrading FMVSS No. 214.\2\ 
The rule incorporated a dynamic pole test into the standard, requiring 
vehicle manufacturers to assure head and improved chest protection in 
side crashes by way of technologies such as side curtain air bags and 
torso side air bags. Among other things, the technologies improve head 
and thorax protection to occupants of vehicles that crash into poles 
and trees and vehicles that are laterally struck by a higher-riding 
vehicle. The final rule adopted use of two advanced test dummies in the 
new pole test, representing occupants ranging from mid-size males to 
small females.\3\ The final rule also enhanced the standard's moving 
deformable barrier (MDB) test by replacing the then-existing 50th 
percentile adult male dummy used in the front seat of tested vehicles 
with the more biofidelic ES-2re mid-size male dummy, and by using the 
SID-IIs 5th percentile adult female dummy in the rear seat.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ 72 FR 51908 (September 11, 2007); response to petitions for 
reconsideration 73 FR 32473 (June 9, 2008), 75 FR 12123 (March 15, 
2010).
    \3\ A test dummy known as the ES-2re represents mid-size adult 
male occupants. A test dummy known as the SID-IIs represents smaller 
stature occupants. The SID-IIs is the size of a 5th percentile adult 
female.
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    The pole test requirements are being phased in, starting from 2010 
for most vehicles (see S9, FMVSS No. 214) and ending with most vehicles 
manufactured on or after September 1, 2014 required to meet the 
requirements. Excluded from the phase-in are vehicles that are 
manufactured by an original vehicle manufacturer that produces or 
assembles fewer than 5,000 vehicles annually for sale in the United 
States (``small volume manufacturers'') (S9.1.3(a)(1)). Under FMVSS No. 
214, small volume manufacturers are not subject to the phase-in, but 
must certify the compliance of their vehicles manufactured on or after 
September 1, 2014, to the pole test.
    In addition, FMVSS No. 214 provides that the pole test does not 
apply to convertibles manufactured before September 1, 2015 
(S9.1.3(d)(1)).
    The enhanced MDB test is also being phased in (see S7.2.1, FMVSS 
No. 214) based on the same phase-in schedule as the pole test. Excluded 
from the phase-in are small volume manufacturers (see S7.2.4(a)(1)). 
Under FMVSS No. 214, small volume manufacturers are not subject to the 
phase-in, but must certify the compliance of their vehicles 
manufactured on or after September 1, 2014 to the enhanced MDB 
requirements.
    FMVSS No. 214 also provides that the enhanced MDB requirements do 
not apply to convertibles manufactured before September 1, 2015 
(S7.2.4(a)(3)).
    According to Aston Martin's petition, the manufacturer currently 
manufactures approximately 4,000 Aston Martin brand vehicles per year 
worldwide. Thus, the requirements that are the subject of the petition 
are FMVSS No. 214's pole and enhanced MDB requirements, which apply to 
petitioner's sedans (coupes) manufactured on or after September 1, 
2014, and to the convertibles manufactured on or after September 1, 
2015.

c. Summary of Petition 4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ To view the petition, go to http://www.regulations.gov and 
enter the docket number set forth in the heading of this document.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113 and the procedures in 49 CFR 
part 555, Aston Martin has submitted a petition asking the agency for a 
temporary exemption from the new pole and MDB requirements of FMVSS No. 
214 \5\ for the petitioner's DB9 and Vantage models. (Aston Martin 
states that the two other models it produces--the Vanquish and the 
Rapide S--will be compliant with the pole and enhanced MDB tests on 
September 1, 2014 (regarding the coupes) and September 1, 2015 
(regarding the convertibles).) The basis for the application is that 
compliance would cause Aston Martin substantial economic hardship and 
that the petitioner has tried in good faith to comply with the 
standard.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ NHTSA understands the petitioner as referring to the 
``vehicle-to-pole requirements'' in S9 of FMVSS No. 214 and to the 
``moving deformable barrier (MDB) requirements'' in S7, specifically 
the requirements in S7.2, ``MDB test with advanced test dummies.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Aston Martin describes itself as a corporation organized under the 
laws of England. Petitioner states that it ``has never manufactured in 
any year (calendar or model) more than 7,500 Aston Martin brand 
vehicles.'' \6\ It sells its cars through a network of 150 dealerships 
worldwide. Petitioner states that since the sale by Ford in 2007, Aston 
Martin ``has been an independent manufacturer not connected to any 
large OEM.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ The petitioner provided confidential production figures to 
support its claim.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petition requests an exemption for the following periods:
     DB9 coupe model production from September 1, 2014 until 
August 31, 2016;
     DB9 convertible model production from September 1, 2015 
until August 31, 2016;
     Vantage coupe model production from September 1, 2014 
until August 31, 2017; and,
     Vantage convertible model production from September 1, 
2015 until August 31, 2017.
    The petitioner believes that 670 vehicles would be covered by the 
requested exemption. This would be the total number of exempted 
vehicles imported into the United States over the entire exemption 
period.
    According to the petition, Aston Martin originally planned for the 
``roll out of the next generation'' DB9 and Vantage models to meet the 
new pole and MDB requirements of FMVSS No. 214. [Emphasis in text.] The 
petitioner states that Aston Martin started development work on its two 
models (the Vanquish and the Rapide) that would not be moving into a 
new generation by the compliance dates of the new pole and MBD 
requirements. Petitioner states that these two models are on track for 
meeting the new FMVSS No. 214 requirements by the date specified by the 
standard. Petitioner states that Aston Martin ``did not foresee the 
need to reengineer the current DB9 and Vantage for new MDB and pole 
test compliance because these models were scheduled to be replaced by 
the next generation vehicles.''
    However, Aston Martin explains, the arrival of the next generation 
of the DB9 and Vantage models has been delayed. Petitioner states:

    Because of little market recovery since 2009, Aston Martin sales 
volumes have not been sufficient to fund the investment required to 
deliver the original 2011 plan. Due to these funding constraints, 
spending on the next generation of vehicles was

[[Page 17233]]

minimal, and Aston Martin could not initiate the start of FMVSS 214 
compliance programs on DB9 or Vantage. Therefore, the company 
investigated options to deliver more cash into the business. It was 
not until 30 April 2013 that Aston Martin received a capital 
increase of [pound]150m into the business from Investindustrial in 
return for a 37.5% interest in the company. This capital injection 
provided the funds needed to deliver the next generation of 
vehicles. In short, Aston Martin needs the exemption to continue the 
DB9 and Vantage USA production until the replacement vehicles are 
ready.

    The petition provides information on the effect that compliance--or 
a failure to obtain an exemption--would have on the manufacturer. 
Petitioner states that the DB9 and Vantage models will not comply with 
the pole and enhanced MDB test requirements ``without complete revision 
of the side air bag systems and complete validation of crash testing.'' 
Aston Martin states that developing completely new pole and MDB test 
compliance systems for the vehicles ``would be cost prohibitive given 
that these models will cease USA production in the near term and the 
cost of amortization over the approximately 670 cars at issue would be 
economically infeasible.''
    Aston Martin indicates that its past three year financial 
statements show a cumulative loss of approximately [pound]39 Million. 
Petitioner believes that the effect amounts to substantial economic 
hardship ``above and beyond the substantial economic hardship that 
Aston Martin is presently experiencing.'' Among other matters, 
petitioner states that approximately $30 million expenditure would be 
required to achieve compliance, and the finances needed to meet the new 
pole and MDB requirements are ``just not available.''
    In addition, petitioner states, ``The new investor in Aston Martin 
has committed its investment money for the next generation vehicle--as 
obviously the longer term hopes for the company depend on the future 
models. Aston Martin funding needs to be focused on the next generation 
of vehicles to ensure the recovery of the company and protect its 
dealer network.''
    Aston Martin provides information related to its efforts to comply 
with the standard. Petitioner states that its challenges to reengineer 
the DB9 and Vantage relate to: its being a small organization with 
limited skilled internal resources; at least two global restraint 
system suppliers have indicated that Aston Martin's volumes are too low 
for the suppliers to be interested in its projects; ``few external CAE/
Structural suppliers have experience in Aston Martin's unique bonded 
aluminum structural concept; and the need to also engineer compliance 
with FMVSS No. 226, ``Ejection mitigation.'' Petitioner states that 
``for Aston Martin to find an interim MDB/Pole solution for only 670 
cars and then to be compelled to reengineer FMVSS 208, 214 and 226 
compliance for 2017 would be a huge investment which Aston Martin 
neither has nor can justify.'' [Emphases in text.]
    Aston Martin believes that the number of vehicles to be sold in the 
U.S. during the exemption would be ``very low and the number of annual 
miles driven in Aston Martin vehicles is very low (on average 2617 
miles).'' Further, Aston Martin contends that ``denial of the exemption 
request here will have a negative effect on U.S. employment.'' 
Petitioner believes that if the petition were denied, ``for a 2-3 year 
period U.S. dealers would be restricted in their product range and 
would only be able to sell Vanquish and Rapide S, which would impact 
their ability to maintain a financial viable operation.'' Aston Martin 
notes that the DB9 was tested to the pole test with the ES-2re adult 
male dummy and passed the injury criteria, but did not do so with a 
compliance margin sufficient for the manufacturer to certify compliance 
based on a single test.

d. Completeness and Comment Period

    Upon receiving a petition, NHTSA conducts an initial review of the 
petition with respect to whether the petition is complete and whether 
the petitioner appears to be eligible to apply for the requested 
exemption. The agency has tentatively concluded that Aston Martin's 
petition is complete and that the petitioner is eligible to apply for a 
temporary exemption. The agency has not made any judgment on the merits 
of the application, and is placing a non-confidential copy of the 
petition in the docket.
    The agency seeks comment from the public on the merits of Aston 
Martin's petition for a temporary exemption from the pole and enhanced 
MDB requirements of FMVSS No. 214. After considering public comments 
and other available information, we will publish a notice of final 
action on the petition in the Federal Register.

    Issued on: March 20, 2014.
Claude H. Harris,
Acting Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 2014-06834 Filed 3-26-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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