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General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance


American Government Topics:  Buick Regal, Chevrolet Malibu

General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Nancy Lummen Lewis
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
July 15, 2014


[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 135 (Tuesday, July 15, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 41355-41357]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-16552]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2012-0165; Notice 2]


General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance

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

ACTION: Denial of petition.

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SUMMARY: General Motors, LLC (GM) \1\ has determined that certain model 
year (MY) 2011 through 2013 Buick Regal and MY 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 
passenger cars may not fully comply with the turn signal lamp failure 
indicator requirement found in paragraph S5.5.6 of Federal Motor 
Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and 
Associated Equipment. GM has filed an appropriate report dated October 
3, 2012, pursuant to 49 CFR Part 573, Defect and Noncompliance 
Responsibility and Reports.
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    \1\ General Motors, LLC is a manufacturer of motor vehicles and 
is registered under the laws of the state of Michigan.

ADDRESSES: For further information on this decision contact Mr. Mike 
Cole, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, the National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366-2334, facsimile 
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(202) 366-5930.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. GM's petition: Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 
30118(d) and 30120(h) (see implementing rule at 49 CFR Part 556), GM 
submitted a petition 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 September 19, 2013, in the Federal Register 
(78 FR 43965). 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-2012-0165.''
    I. Vehicles Involved: Affected are approximately 109,563 MY 2011 
through 2013 Buick Regal and MY 2013 Chevrolet Malibu passenger cars 
manufactured from January 20, 2010 through September 18, 2012.
    II. Noncompliance: GM explains that the subject vehicles are 
equipped with front turn signals, each of which incorporates two light 
sources. When both light sources of either front turn signal fail, turn 
signal lamp failure indication is provided as required by paragraph 
S5.5.6 of FMVSS No. 108. However, turn signal lamp failure indication 
is not provided if only one of the light sources fails in either front 
turn signal assembly. If a single bulb fails to illuminate, the turn 
signal is still illuminated by the other bulb.
    III. Rule Text: Paragraph S5.5.6 of FMVSS No. 108 specifically 
states:

    S5.5.6 Each vehicle equipped with a turn signal operating unit 
shall also have an illuminated pilot indicator. Failure of one or 
more turn signal lamps to operate shall be indicated in accordance 
with SAE Standard J588e, Turn Signal Lamps, September 1970 . . .

    IV. Summary of GM's Analyses: GM stated its belief that the lack of 
turn signal lamp failure indication is inconsequential to motor vehicle 
safety for the following reasons:
    1. As delivered to the customer the turn signal lamps function 
properly and meet all requirements of FMVSS No. 108. This is not a 
situation where the photometric output of the turn signals fails to 
meet the requirements as delivered to the customer. In fact, the light 
output of the normally operating turn signals greatly exceeds the 
photometric requirements as produced.
    2. Most drivers will never be affected by the reduction of 
photometric output, without outage indication as a result of a single 
front bulb failure, because the failure rate of the turn signal bulb is 
extremely low. The bulb life of these turn signals is three to four 
times the life of the bulbs used in turn signals when the turn signal 
lamps failure indication requirement was incorporated into the 
standard. The bulbs used in the subject front turn signals have a 
tested life of 1,100 hours at 12.8 volts. Using this information in a 
Monte Carlo simulation analysis provides the following results:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Years...........................................             2.5             5.0             7.5            10.0
Miles...........................................          31,250          62,500          93,750         125,000
No. of Burnouts.................................               0               0               1               4
SIM Vehicles....................................          10,000          10,000          10,000          10,000
Failure IPTV....................................           0.000           0.000           0.400           4.000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 41356]]

Consequently, it is extremely unlikely a driver will experience a 
single turn signal bulb failure over the life of the vehicle, and thus 
the lack of outage indication, with a single bulb failure, is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety.
    3. With a single bulb, the turn signal still functions and provides 
perceptible indication that the vehicle may be turning. In the 
extremely remote case that both light sources were to fail, in either 
front turn signal, bulb outage is indicated as required by the 
standard.
    4. In the Malibu vehicle, if an outboard front turn bulb is not 
working, the inboard bulb continues to meet the photometric 
requirements. In this case, the centroid of the light shifts and is 
greater than 100 mm from the lit edge of the low beam head lamp. The 
light output of the inboard bulb easily meets the minimum photometric 
requirements specified in FMVSS No. 108.
    5. If the inboard bulb burns out on the Malibu, or either bulb on 
the Regal, the remaining lamp continues to provide light which meets 
the photometric requirements in some zones, and comes close to the 
requirements in most of the remaining zones. This light exceeds the 
standard turn signal photometric requirements, but due to the location 
of the turn signal (i.e., the turn signal centroid within 100 mm of the 
lit edge of the low beam lamp) the 2.5 multiplier must be applied to 
photometric requirements.
    a. For the Malibu turn signal lamps, the photometric requirements 
with the 2.5 multiplier, are met in three of the five zones; and are 
within 25% of the requirements in a 4th zone.
    b. For the Regal turn signal lamps, the photometric requirements 
with the 2.5 multiplier, are met in two of the five zones; and are 
within 25% of the requirements in two other zones. The Malibu and Regal 
turn signal lamps provide the required light under normal driving 
conditions. In the unlikely circumstance that a single bulb stops 
functioning, the remaining bulb continues to provide the minimum turn 
signal light specified in the standard and is generally within 25% of 
the minimum required light after the 2.5 multiplier is applied. In the 
case of these vehicles, GM's analysis indicates the light provided by 
the single bulb is perceptible to the motoring public.
    GM has additionally informed NHTSA that it has corrected the 
noncompliance so that all future production vehicles will comply with 
FMVSS No. 108.
    In summation, GM believes that the described noncompliance of its 
vehicles 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.
    V. NHTSA's Analysis OF GM's Petition: General Principles: Federal 
motor vehicle safety standards are adopted only after the agency has 
determined, following notice and comment, that the performance 
requirements are objective and practicable and ``meet the need for 
motor vehicle safety.'' See 49 U.S.C. 30111(a). Thus, there is a 
general presumption that the failure of a motor vehicle or item of 
motor vehicle equipment to comply with a FMVSS increases the risk to 
motor vehicle safety beyond the level deemed appropriate by NHTSA 
through the rulemaking process. To protect the public from such risks, 
manufacturers whose products fail to comply with a FMVSS are normally 
required to conduct a safety recall under which they must notify 
owners, purchasers, and dealers of the noncompliance and provide a 
remedy without charge. 49 U.S.C. 30118-30120. However, Congress has 
recognized that, under some limited circumstances, a noncompliance 
could be ``inconsequential'' to motor vehicle safety. 
``Inconsequential'' is not defined either in the statute or in NHTSA's 
regulations. Rather, the agency determines whether a particular 
noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety based on the 
specific facts before it. The key issue in determining 
inconsequentiality is whether the noncompliance in question is likely 
to increase the safety risk to individuals of accidents or to 
individual occupants who experience the type of injurious event against 
which the standard was designed to protect. See General Motors Corp.; 
Ruling on Petition for Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 
69 FR 19897 (Apr. 14, 2004).
    There have been instances in the past in which NHTSA has determined 
that a manufacturer has met its burden of persuasion by demonstrating 
that a noncompliance is inconsequential to safety. For example, there 
have been instances where NHTSA granted inconsequentiality petitions 
regarding noncompliance with labeling requirements. See, e.g., General 
Motors Corp., Grant of Application for Decision of Inconsequential 
Noncompliance, 61 FR 60746 (Nov. 29, 1996) (noncompliance with FMVSS 
No. 115).
    More rarely, NHTSA has granted inconsequentiality petitions in 
cases of noncompliance with performance requirements where the 
noncompliance was determined to be so minor as to be inconsequential--
for example, where the noncompliance is expected to be imperceptible, 
or nearly so, to vehicle occupants or approaching drivers. See, e.g., 
General Motors Corp., Grant of Application for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance, 63 FR 70179 (Dec. 18, 1998) 
(noncompliance with FMVSS No. 108); Subaru of America, Inc., Grant of 
Application for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 66 FR 18354 
(Apr. 6, 2001) (noncompliance with FMVSS No. 108).
    On the other hand, NHTSA has denied petitions for inconsequential 
noncompliance where required equipment is completely missing from the 
vehicle. For example, NHTSA denied a petition for travel trailers not 
equipped with rear identification lamps. Weekend Warrior Trailers, 
Inc., Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 
71 FR 5409 (Feb. 1, 2006).
    In addition, NHTSA has denied inconsequentiality petitions for 
trailers that were equipped with clearance and identification lamps 
that did not meet the minimum photometry requirements. Utilimaster 
Corporation; Denial of Application for Decision of Inconsequential 
Noncompliance, 66 FR 33603 (June 22, 2001).
    VI. NHTSA's Analysis of GM's Arguments: NHTSA has reviewed GM's 
petition and has determined that the noncompliance is not 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety.
    First, GM asserts that the turn signals as delivered, comply with 
the photometric requirements. However, the agency finds that this 
should be true of all newly manufactured motor vehicles and finds that 
fact to be unrelated to the requirements that apply in the event of a 
turn signal failure.
    Second, GM states that the tested life of these turn signal bulbs 
is 1100 hours; three to four times the life of the bulbs used in turn 
signals when the bulb outage indication requirement was incorporated 
into the standard. As such, GM believes that it is extremely unlikely a 
driver will experience a single turn signal bulb failure over the life 
of the vehicle.
    NHTSA notes that the requirements for driver indication of a turn 
signal failure became effective over 40 years ago and since that time 
improvements have been made to the life of turn signal bulbs and motor 
vehicles. For light sources, this includes the development of long life 
bulbs and the introduction of light emitting diodes (LEDs) into motor 
vehicle applications. For vehicles, the Federal Highway

[[Page 41357]]

Administration posted a chart of the ``Average Age of Automobiles and 
Trucks in Use, 1970-1999'' that indicates the average vehicle age in 
1970 was 5.6 years. (this information was compiled from Polk Company 
data by Ward's Communications, Ward's Motor Vehicle Facts and Figures 
from 2001) By 2013, Polk posted that the average vehicle age that year 
was 11.4 years. (see https://www.polk.com/company/news/polk_finds_average_age_of_light_vehicles_continues_to_rise) At the time 
that the bulb outage indication requirement became part of the FMVSS 
108, SAE J573d DEC68 listed the average turn signal bulb laboratory 
life as approximately 500 hours. Comparing that to the GM specified 
bulb life of 1100 hours yields a similar doubling of bulb life compared 
to the increase in the average vehicle age. Therefore, while the bulb 
life has indeed increased, it has increased at a rate similar to the 
average vehicle age which mathematically makes a bulb failure, when 
compared to vehicle life, the same likelihood now as it was in 1970.
    Additionally, GM did not make any mention of the actual voltage 
that the electrical systems of the vehicles in question would be 
providing to the front turn signal bulbs. Factors such as voltage, 
heat, vibration and corrosion are all important things to consider that 
can have a significant effect on the life of a bulb and no 
consideration was given to these factors in GM's petition. For 
instance, GM technical bulletin 04-08-42-002 indicated that for certain 
vehicles, (2003-2004 Saturn ION) the ``amount of voltage supplied to 
the front headlamp assembly for the turn signal circuit may cause the 
bulb to prematurely wear out.''
    Other turn signal lamp failure modes exist as well. For example, GM 
recall 06V-263 (2004-2005 Cadillac XLR) described premature bulb 
failure due to ``vibration within a loose fitting socket or air 
entering the bulb due to an inadequate seal.'' Also, GM recalls 04V-547 
(2003-2004 Saturn ION) and 04V-524 (2003 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac 
Sunfire), described turn signal lamp failure due to ``loss of'' and 
``inadequate'' ``contact between the bulb and socket.''
    As such, NHTSA believes that there are many light source related 
failure modes that can cause a turn signal lamp to fail, and GM's 
argument that a light source failure is extremely unlikely based on 
laboratory bulb life does not adequately consider these other failure 
modes.
    Third, Fourth, and Fifth, GM offers several scenarios regarding the 
photometric performance of the turn signal lamp in the event that a 
single light source were to fail. Each one of GM's scenarios relies on 
downgrading the performance of the original equipment turn signal lamp 
from a large, two lighted section lamp, down to a smaller, one lighted 
section lamp. This results in a photometric performance requirement 
reduction of ~15% in the zones, as well as similar reductions at the 
individual test points. Even under the requirements assumed by GM for 
its scenarios, 75% of GM's scenarios still fail to meet even the 
reduced requirements.
    GM argues that despite the failure of the lamps in these scenarios 
to meet the photometric requirements at some of the zones, it was 
within 25% of the minimum zonal requirements. When referring to these 
zonal failures, and within ``25%'' of the zonal requirements, it 
appears that GM is making a just noticeable difference (JND) argument 
relative to the zones. A NHTSA study titled ``Driver Perception of Just 
Noticeable Differences of Automotive Signal Lamp Intensities'' [DOT HS 
808 209, September 1994] demonstrated that a change in luminous 
intensity of 25 percent or less is not noticeable by most drivers. 
However, NHTSA has stated that it is not valid to use the JND 
justification for judging the effect of zonal intensity failures. 
Drivers do not look at zones when they observe lamps; they look at the 
lamp from very narrow angles based on the distance between their eyes 
and the distance to the lamp. Using the JND justification on zones 
would imply that drivers would be looking at lamps from all the test 
points in the zone simultaneously and somehow integrating the numerous 
intensities into some false representation of how intense the lamp 
should be. This is simply not the case. For this reason, the JND 
argument is not applicable to zone failures. (see 62FR63417)
    VII. Prior Inconsequentiality Petitions: NHTSA found one prior 
inconsequentiality determination regarding the turn signal bulb outage 
requirements of FMVSS No. 108. In 1999, General Motors determined that 
it had manufactured 209 Chevrolet S10 Electric Trucks that were non-
compliant with the requirement. The agency granted GM's petition on the 
basis that these low volume trucks were mainly used in fleets and that 
they would receive regular periodic maintenance where detection of the 
failure of a turn signal lamp and replacement thereof would be more 
likely than in privately owned vehicles. As such, NHTSA felt that the 
likelihood of these low volume trucks having any sustained period of 
outage would be a relatively infrequent event. (see 64 FR 44575) In 
contrast, the current situation involves 109,563 Chevrolet Malibu and 
Buick Regal passenger cars which are likely to be privately owned 
vehicles. Considering that a partial failure may go unnoticed by the 
vehicle owner, NHTSA believes that the likelihood of a sustained period 
of reduced turn signal performance due to an outage would be high.
    VIII. Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has 
decided that GM has not met its burden of persuasion that the FMVSS No. 
108 noncompliance described is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, GM's petition is hereby denied, and GM is obligated to 
provide notification of, and a remedy for, that noncompliance under 49 
U.S.C. 30118 and 30120.

    Authority:  (49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: Delegations of authority at 
49 CFR 1.95 and 501.8)

    Issued on: July 9, 2014.
Nancy Lummen Lewis,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2014-16552 Filed 7-14-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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