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Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft Device; Volkswagen

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Audi A6, Audi S6

Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft Device; Volkswagen

Christopher A. Hart
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Federal Register
November 3, 1994

[Federal Register: November 3, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

 
Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft 
Device; Volkswagen

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

ACTION: Grant of petition for modification of a previously approved 
antitheft device.

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SUMMARY: In 1988, this agency granted Volkswagen of America, Inc.'s 
(Volkswagen) petition for exemption from the parts marking requirements 
of the vehicle theft prevention standard for the Audi 100 and Audi 200 
lines. The lines have been redesignated for model year 1995 as, 
respectively, the Audi A6 and Audi S6. This notice grants Volkswagen's 
petition for a modification of the exemption originally granted in 
1988, and modified in 1992. The agency grants this petition because it 
has determined, based on substantial evidence, that the modified 
antitheft device described in Volkswagen's petition to be placed on the 
car lines as standard equipment, is likely to be as effective in 
reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with parts 
marking requirements.

DATES: The exemption granted by this notice is effective at the 
beginning of model year 1995.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Barbara A. Gray, Office of Market 
Incentives, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590. 
Ms. Gray's telephone number is (202) 366-1740.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In February 1988, NHTSA published in the 
Federal Register a notice granting the petition from Volkswagen of 
America, Inc. (Volkswagen) for an exemption from the parts marking 
requirements of the vehicle theft prevention standard for two model 
year (MY) 1989 Volkswagen car lines, the Audi 100 and Audi 200. (See 53 
FR 4095, February 11, 1988). The agency determined that the antitheft 
device which Volkswagen intended to install on the two car lines as 
standard equipment was likely to be as effective in reducing and 
deterring motor vehicle theft as would compliance with the parts 
marking requirements of the theft prevention standard.
    Subsequently, on April 29, 1992, NHTSA published a notice granting 
Volkswagen's petition for a modification of the 1988 exemption so that 
company could begin installing a new version of its antitheft device 
(See 57 FR 18203). The new device was placed as standard equipment on 
the MY 1992 Audi 100 and S4 (formerly the 200) lines. Volkswagen stated 
that the MY 1992 antitheft device included a modified central locking 
system, and included, on the higher priced models in the 100 line, a 
remote control signaling unit.
    In a letter dated May 11, 1994, Volkswagen informed NHTSA of 
contemplated changes to the antitheft device to be placed as standard 
equipment on the MY 1995 Audi A6 and S6 car lines, and requested that 
the modified antitheft device be permitted. In a letter dated July 14, 
1994, Volkswagen submitted a letter showing ``good cause'' why NHTSA 
should make the grant of the petition for modification applicable to MY 
1995. In a letter dated August 3, 1994, Volkswagen provided 
supplemental information addressing section 543.6(a)(4), reasons for 
the petitioner's belief that the antitheft device will be effective in 
reducing motor vehicle theft, and section 543.6(a)(5), reasons for the 
petitioner's belief that NHTSA should determine that the antitheft 
device is likely to be as effective as parts marking. Together, 
Volkswagen's submissions of May 11, July 14, and August 3 constitute a 
complete submission, as required by 49 CFR 543.9(c)(2), in that the 
petition meets the general content requirements of section 543.5 
paragraphs (b) (1) through (3) and (7); and the specific content 
requirements under section 543.6.
    In a letter dated May 23, 1994 to Volkswagen, the agency granted 
the petitioner's request for confidential treatment of bracketed 
information in its May 11, 1994 letter. On September 6, 1994, 
Volkswagen informed NHTSA in writing that the names of the A6 and S6 
car lines and the model year of their introduction, had been publicly 
released, and therefore, Volkswagen no longer requested confidential 
treatment for this information.
    Volkswagen's petition contains a detailed description of the 
identity, design, and location of the components of the antitheft 
device, including the electrical schematics of the device. There are 
locks on the trunk, the driver's door, and the front passenger door. 
Volkswagen stated that the antitheft device planned for MY 1995 is 
activated by removing the key from the ignition and locking the 
driver's door or trunk. When the operator removes the ignition key, 
exits from the vehicle and locks the driver's door with the key, the 
central locking system is activated. Activation of the central locking 
system renders the starter motor nonfunctional and arms an audible 
alarm. The alarm is triggered by sensors in the light contact switches 
for the doors and engine compartment, by a sensor located in the trunk 
key cylinder, and by disconnection of the ground wire between the radio 
housing and the antitheft alarm unit.
    The theft deterrent system of the antitheft device planned for MY 
1995 has an engine starter interrupt function. While the system is 
armed, any breach of it will automatically interrupt the starter relay. 
Once the alarm has been triggered, the engine cannot be started until 
the alarm has been deactivated with the key in one of the front doors 
or the trunk lock.
    Volkswagen states that the antitheft device planned for the MY 1995 
car lines differs somewhat from the device on the MY 1992 lines. 
Volkswagen states that the differences in the planned MY 1995 device 
are a revision in the central locking system, the addition of an LED 
activation indicator, and changes in the audible and visible warning 
devices.
    With the MY 1992 antitheft device, once the central locking system 
and alarm are activated, the operator could choose to open only a 
specific door lock or the trunk lock by turning the key and quickly 
releasing it. Holding the key for more than 0.5 seconds in the open 
position deactivates the alarm, and opens both door locks and the trunk 
lock. Additionally, when the key is inserted and turned 
counterclockwise to open the trunk lock, the central locking system 
also opens both door locks and deactivates the alarm system. Turning 
the key in either front door lock or in the trunk lock rearms the 
device and locks both doors and the trunk. Tampering with the device 
will cause both the horn and lights to activate for up to 4 minutes.
    For MY 1995, Volkswagen plans to modify the antitheft device so 
that when the key is inserted into a front door lock or trunk lock, the 
key will only open the lock being turned. However, an operator can open 
all the door locks and the trunk lock simultaneously if, within 5 
seconds of the first turn of the key, the operator turns the key a 
second time to the open position. Tampering with the MY 1995 system 
would cause the horn to sound for 30 seconds, instead of sounding for 
up to 4 minutes, as the MY 1992 system does. In addition, the device 
planned for MY 1995 will utilize the hazard warning flashers, which 
operate up to 5 minutes. For MY 1995, an LED activation indicator light 
will be added on the front dashboard. A flashing light shows that the 
antitheft device is activated.
    For the planned MY 1995 device, Volkswagen provided a drawing 
indicating that all the switches and wiring activating the device are 
protected. The door, trunk, and engine hood contact switches are all 
hidden within the vehicle. Additionally, the control unit for the 
antitheft device is located in the passenger-side dashboard, with the 
battery being protected under the hood. If an unauthorized attempt 
should be made to open the hood, an audible signal and flashing of the 
hazard warning lamps will be triggered via the contact switch for the 
engine compartment light when it is opened. The alarm system horn is 
located in the trunk compartment and can only be reached after the 
trunk lock is opened.
    Volkswagen addressed the reliability and durability of its 
antitheft device by providing a list of Volkswagen's internal 
performance and durability tests that were conducted on the device. 
Among these tests were tests for: Material requirements; operating 
voltages; temperature stability; mechanical properties; electrical 
requirements; electromagnetic compatibility; environmental 
compatibility; and service life. With its petition, Volkswagen included 
a certification that the antitheft device was tested according to 
Volkswagen's standard, including those tests relating to electrical and 
mechanical durability, and passed all the performance requirements of 
the tests.
    As further evidence of the antitheft device's reliability and 
durability, Volkswagen stated that the functions of the antitheft 
device are to be handled by a specially developed microchip 
manufactured with the latest complementary metal oxide semiconductor 
(C-MOS) technology. Volkswagen asserts that among the advantages of 
this method are that it reduces the number of discrete components by 
about 60 percent compared with conventional antitheft devices; it has 
better reliability, as there are fewer solder joints; it has a high 
degree of parameter stability; and by the use of a chip, the suggestion 
of contact bounce and interference on input signals from the protected 
areas can be digitalized. Volkswagen further states that in addition to 
a high degree of protection (the unit will withstand -150 V to +100 V 
pulses without damage), this achieves a high degree of resistance to 
interference.
    Volkswagen stated that the antitheft device planned for the MY 1995 
A6 and S6 car lines is, except for the changes noted earlier, almost 
identical to the devices on the Audi 100, S4, 500 and Quattro car lines 
that have been granted exemptions from parts marking requirements of 
the theft prevention standard.
    The agency has reviewed the theft experience of the Audi 100 and 
200 car lines equipped with the antitheft device as standard equipment, 
for 1989, 1990, and 1991. The data from the FBI's National Crime 
Information Center, NHTSA's official source of theft data, show that 
for 1990/91 the most recent year for which theft data is available, the 
Audi 100/200 had a theft rate of 1.3564 (per thousand vehicles 
produced), a rate that is below the 1990/91 median theft rate of 
3.5826. For 1990/91, out of 235 vehicle lines, the Audi 100/200 line 
was ranked 204, far lower than the median rank of 116.
    In discussing why it believes the antitheft device will be 
effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft, Volkswagen 
compared its MY 1995 antitheft device to similar devices for which 
NHTSA has previously granted exemptions from parts marking. Volkswagen 
stated that the theft rates of these comparable lines decreased when 
the antitheft device was made standard equipment, and have remained, 
for the most part, below 1983/84 median theft rate of 3.2712 (per 
thousand vehicles produced). (See 50 FR 46666, November 12, 1985). 
Volkswagen stated its belief that its device proposed for MY 1995 is 
equivalent to all of these comparable devices previously granted an 
exemption by the agency. The agency believes that the MY 1995 
Volkswagen antitheft device is comparable to the devices on the car 
lines cited below.
    Based on data from the FBI's National Crime Information Center, 
Volkswagen showed that the theft rate of the Toyota Cressida went from 
4.7 (all figures provided are for thefts per thousand vehicles 
produced) in 1985 to 4.26 in 1986; the theft rate of the Toyota Supra 
went from 10.39 in 1985 to 2.79 in 1986; the theft rate of the Nissan 
Maxima went from 4.18 in 1984 to 1.99 in 1985; the theft rate of the 
Nissan 300ZX went from 8.74 in 1983/84 to 5.14 in 1989; and the theft 
rate of the Mazda RX-7 went from 12.11 in 1984 to a theft rate of 6.09 
in 1989.
    For these reasons, Volkswagen believes that the antitheft system 
planned for installation on its MY 1995 A6 and S6 lines is likely to be 
as effective in reducing thefts as compliance with the parts marking 
requirements of part 541.
    NHTSA believes that there is substantial evidence indicating that 
the modified antitheft system planned to be installed as standard 
equipment on the MY 1995 Audi A6 and S6 car lines will likely be as 
effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance 
with the requirements of the theft prevention standard (49 CFR part 
541). This determination is based on the information that Volkswagen 
submitted with its petition and on other available information. The 
agency believes that the modified device will continue to provide the 
types of performance listed in section 543.6(a)(3): promoting 
activation; attracting attention to unauthorized entries; preventing 
defeat or circumventing of the device by unauthorized persons; 
preventing operation of the vehicle by unauthorized entrants; and 
ensuring the reliability and durability of the device.
    As required by 49 CFR section 543.6(a)(4), the agency also finds 
that Volkswagen has provided adequate reasons for its belief that the 
modified antitheft device will reduce and deter theft. This conclusion 
is based on the information Volkswagen provided on its device. This 
information included a description of reliability and functional tests 
conducted by Volkswagen for the antitheft device and its components.
    In 49 CFR 543.9, paragraph (h)(2)(ii) permits the agency to 
establish an effective date for the modification of the exemption 
earlier than ``the model year following the model year in which NHTSA 
issued the modification decision'' upon a showing of good cause by the 
manufacturer that an earlier effective date for modifying its exemption 
is consistent with the public interest and purposes of 49 U.S.C. 
section 33106. In its petition, Volkswagen stated that making the 
modification of its antitheft system effective beginning with MY 1995 
is in the public interest since it would permit expeditious manufacture 
and sale of vehicles with the modified antitheft system as standard 
equipment. Volkswagen cited the 1990/91 theft data published by NHTSA 
in the Federal Register (59 FR 12400, March 16, 1994) shows that the 
Audi 100/200 car lines had a theft rate of 1.3564 (per thousand 
vehicles stolen), substantially below the 1990/91 theft rate of 3.5826. 
Volkswagen stated its belief that the antitheft device proposed for the 
MY 1995 Audi A6 and S6 car lines, with essentially the same device, 
will continue to have a theft rate well below the median. NHTSA has 
reviewed this showing of ``good cause'' and finds that making the 
modification of Volkswagen's petition effective beginning with the 1995 
model year is consistent with the public interest and 49 U.S.C. section 
33106.
    For the foregoing reasons, the agency hereby exempts the Volkswagen 
Audi A6 and S6 car lines that are the subject of this notice, in whole, 
from the requirements of 49 CFR part 541.
    If, in the future, Volkswagen decides not to use the exemption for 
the car line that is the subject of this notice, it should formally 
notify the agency. If such a decision is made, the car line must be 
fully marked according to the requirements under 49 CFR 541.5 and 541.6 
(marking of major component parts and replacement parts).
    The agency notes that the limited and apparently conflicting data 
on the effectiveness of the pre-standard parts marking programs 
continue to make it difficult to compare the effectiveness of an 
antitheft device with the effectiveness of compliance with the theft 
prevention standard. The statute clearly invites such a comparison, 
which the agency has made on the basis of the limited data available. 
With implementation of the requirements of the ``Anti Car Theft Act of 
1992,'' NHTSA anticipates more probative data upon which comparisons 
may be made.
    NHTSA notes also that if Volkswagen 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, section 543.9(c)(2) 
provides for the submission of petitions ``(t)o modify an exemption to 
permit the use of an antitheft device similar to but differing from the 
one specified in that exemption.''
    However, the agency wishes to minimize the administrative burden 
which section 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.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 33106; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 
1.50.

    Issued on October 27, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-27260 Filed 11-2-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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