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Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft Device; BMW

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  BMW 7 Series

Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft Device; BMW

Ricardo Martinez
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
September 19, 1994

[Federal Register: September 19, 1994]


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Petition for Modification of a Previously Approved Antitheft 
Device; BMW

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

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


SUMMARY: In 1986, this agency granted BMW of North America, Inc.'s 
(BMW) petition for exemption from the parts marking requirements of the 
vehicle theft prevention standard for the BMW 7 Car line. This notice 
grants BMW's petition for a modification of the previously approved 
antitheft device. The agency grants this petition because it has 
determined, based on substantial evidence, that the modified antitheft 
device described in BMW's petition to be placed on the car line as 
standard equipment, is likely to be as effective in reducing and 
deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with parts marking 

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

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In October 1986, NHTSA published in the 
Federal Register a notice granting the petition from BMW of North 
America, Inc. (BMW) for an exemption from the parts marking 
requirements of the vehicle theft prevention standard for the model 
year (MY) 1988 BMW 7 Car line. (See 51 FR 36333, October 9, 1986). The 
agency determined that the antitheft device which BMW intended to 
install on the 7 Car line as standard equipment is likely to be as 
effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as would 
compliance with the parts marking requirements of the theft prevention 
    On February 17, 1994, BMW submitted a letter to the agency stating 
that the MY 1995 7 Car line would include modifications to the 
antitheft system that is installed as standard equipment. In a letter 
dated August 12, 1994, the agency informed BMW that the modification to 
the antitheft system on the 7 Car line appeared to be subject to NHTSA 
approval pursuant to 49 CFR section 543.9, Terminating or modifying an 
exemption. The agency had determined that the changes to the previously 
approved antitheft system were not de minimis, based on BMW's 
discussions of proposed changes to radio and glove box monitoring, and 
the addition of a glass breakage sensor.
    On August 26, 1994, BMW submitted its petition for modification. 
The petition incorporated by reference certain information, dated May 
29, 1986, that BMW already provided to NHTSA in its petition for 
exemption for the MY 1988 7 Car line. Together, the above information 
submitted by BMW constitutes a complete petition, as required by 49 CFR 
section 543.9(d), in that it meets the general requirements contained 
in section 543.5 and the specific content requirements of section 
    In its petition for MY 1988, BMW included a detailed description of 
the identity, design and location of the components of the antitheft 
device, including diagrams of components and their location in the 
vehicle. BMW stated that the system consists of three lines of defense 
designed to prevent entry, disable the car, and scare away potential 
thieves. BMW described the antitheft device that was installed as 
standard equipment as passively activated.
    BMW stated that, for MY 1995, the antitheft system will be modified 
in three ways:
    (1) A remote control device will be added. BMW describes the remote 
control device as ``an integral component within the vehicle key,'' 
used to lock/unlock the door(s) and actuate the alarm system. BMW 
stated that the remote control device is identical to that provided for 
the antitheft device on the BMW 8 Car line. In a letter to BMW dated 
October 4, 1993, NHTSA determined that the addition of the remote on 
the 8 Car line is a de minimis change to the antitheft device.
    (2) Monitoring circuits for the radio and glove box are removed. In 
their place, the antitheft device will monitor glass breakage. As under 
the original exemption, the antitheft device monitors door opening. BMW 
asserts that the combination of the door and glass monitoring make the 
occupant compartment impenetrable. If the glass is broken in order to 
unlock and open a door, the device sounds. Likewise, if a door is 
opened by a means other than breaking the glass, e.g., through the use 
of a slim jim, the device sounds when a door is opened.
    (3) The alarm siren's decibel level is raised from 104 decibels to 
112 decibels.
    BMW stated that, for MY 1995, the antitheft device features a 
comprehensive security alarm system and an ignition/fuel system 
disabling device that is activated by locking the door (either driver 
or passenger) with the metal key. The key can be turned in the front 
door locks in three positions: off; 45 degrees; and 90 degrees. If the 
driver holds the key a little past the 90 degree position, any open 
windows and the sunroof close. When the key is turned 45 degrees and 
removed, the doors, trunk, and fuel filler door are locked and the 
alarm system is armed. Additionally, when the key is removed from the 
driver's or passenger's door lock after having been turned 45 degrees, 
the ignition and fuel injection systems are deactivated, immobilizing 
the car.
    When the key is turned 90 degrees and removed, the car's alarm is 
armed and the doors are ``double locked.'' The alarm monitors the 
doors, hood, trunk, side window glazing and ignition switch. If the key 
is not first turned in the driver's or passenger's door lock, the alarm 
will sound if someone tampers with the doors, hood, or trunk, or turns 
the ignition switch. When this happens, the horn will sound, and the 
hazard warning lamps and high beam headlights will flash.
    After 30 seconds, the alarm will automatically shut off and then 
rearm itself within 5 seconds. The alarm system has its own separate 
fuse, so removal of any of the fuses in the fuse box of the engine 
compartment will not disarm the system. The hood has an inside lock 
release located underneath the dashboard, and is also tied into the 
alarm system. BMW stated that the electronic control unit for the 
system is hidden within the vehicle. Cutting, disconnecting, or 
manipulating system wiring will trigger the alarm. Therefore, if a 
thief did manage to penetrate to the battery circuit and interrupt it, 
the alarm systems' memory will trigger the alarm when the circuit is 
again completed.
    The steering/ignition lock is hardened against the grip of a screw, 
and the housing is reinforced to prevent removal of the lock. When the 
key is removed, the steering lock has a mechanism that causes the lock 
to instantly engage, preventing steering wheel movement without any 
additional action. BMW states that the steering lock cannot be broken 
by forcing the steering wheel because a clutch in the steering drive is 
designed to slip long before torque sufficient to break the lock can be 
    BMW states that the inside locking mechanism operates by means of a 
vertical plunger on each door, and that the plunger on the driver's 
door overrides the other plunger. In the event of an accident, an 
inertia switch will unlock all doors. The same key operates door locks 
and the ignition/steering lock, and can be inserted in a keyhole in 
either direction. To prevent locking the keys in the car upon exiting, 
the driver's door can only be locked with a key after it is closed.
    BMW describes the key for the 7 Car line as being unique in that it 
has the equivalent of four rows of teeth. BMW asserts that the unique 
design makes the locks almost impossible to pick and the keys 
impossible to duplicate on the open market. Special key blanks, key 
cutting machines, and codes will be closely controlled and new keys 
will only be issued to authorized persons. Additionally, the first gate 
in the door lock keyway is hardened to resist the grip of a screw to 
prevent use of a slampuller.
    BMW states that an LED warning lamp on the center console which is 
visible from outside of the vehicle informs the driver of the arming 
status of the alarm/no-start systems. Upon return to the operator's 
vehicle, the warning lamp informs the operator if a theft attempt has 
been made, or if a door, hood or trunk is not completely closed. It 
also indicates if there are any problems with the system. Additionally, 
BMW states that the vehicle's diagnostic umbilical contains extra 
circuits which, when plugged into the vehicle diagnostic machine at the 
dealership, identifies problems with the antitheft system.
    As a complementary feature to the passive system, the operator may 
manually arm another alarm system and deactivate the vehicle's 
ignition/fuel systems so that a thief would not be able to start the 
engine and steal the vehicle. This active system is armed by the driver 
keying in a 4-digit code into the computer built into the dashboard.
    BMW addressed the reliability and durability of its antitheft 
device by providing a list of American and international standards for 
which the antitheft system has been tested and found in compliance. 
This list includes various environmental tests and a Swedish regulation 
that requires door and ignition locks to be able to resist commonly 
available tools for a minimum period of 5 minutes in attempted forced 
entries. BMW uses the proposed system's conformance to these standards 
as support for the likely effectiveness of the system in reducing and 
deterring theft.
    BMW noted that NHTSA's February 1986 Report to Congress indicates 
that the first year's theft rate for new introductions are generally 
lower because the demand for replacement parts is relatively small. BMW 
believes that this finding applies to its 7 Car line and that theft 
rates will generally be lower because of the limited total sales of 
these vehicles. Additionally, BMW believes that most of this car line 
will be stolen for the value of the whole car, not its parts. BMW 
stated that since parts marking seeks to deter thefts of automobiles 
for their parts, while antitheft devices deter all thefts, BMW believes 
that its antitheft system ``should be considerably more effective'' in 
reducing and deterring theft than parts marking.
    BMW compares its MY 1995 antitheft system to similar systems which 
have previously been granted exemptions by the agency. It compared its 
proposed system to systems installed in the Saab 9000, Mazda 929, 
Infiniti M30, and Lexus LS. BMW believes that its analysis reveals that 
its system is equivalent to, or has more extensive features than, all 
of the compared systems previously granted an exemption by the agency. 
The agency believes that the BMW antitheft device is comparable to the 
systems on the cited car lines.
    The 1983/84 median theft rate was 3.2712 thefts per thousand 
vehicles produced. (See 50 FR 46666, November 12, 1985). Based on data 
from the FBI's National Crime Information Center, NHTSA's official 
source of theft data, BMW showed that for MYs 1989 through 1992, the 
theft rates of the Saab 9000, Mazda 929, Infiniti M30, and Lexus LS 
fell mostly below 3.2712. For 1989, the Saab 9000 had a theft rate of 
2.3691 (per thousand vehicles manufactured), and the Mazda 929 had a 
theft rate of 3.3610. No theft data were available for the Infiniti M30 
or Lexus LS for 1989. For 1990/91, the Saab 9000 had a theft rate of 
0.5125, the Mazda 929 had a theft rate of 2.7178, the Infiniti M30 had 
a theft rate of 2.7496, and the Lexus LS had a theft rate of 1.8977. 
For 1992, preliminary data show that the Saab 9000 had a theft rate of 
0.4695, the Mazda 929 had a theft rate of 2.6477, the Infiniti M30 had 
a theft rate of 2.7117, and the Lexus LS had a theft rate of 2.4390.
    For these reasons, BMW believes that the antitheft system proposed 
for installation on its 7 Car line 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 installed as standard equipment on the MY 
1995 BMW 7 Car line 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 BMW 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 BMW has provided adequate reasons for its belief that the modified 
antitheft device will reduce and deter theft. This conclusion is based 
on the information BMW provided on its device. This information 
included a description of reliability and functional tests conducted by 
BMW for the antitheft device and its components.
    49 CFR section 543.9(h)(2)(ii) permits the agency to establish an 
effective date for the modification of the antitheft device 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, BMW 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. 
BMW stated the 1989 theft data published by NHTSA in the Federal 
Register (56 FR 7444, February 22, 1991) show that the BMW 7 Car line 
had a theft rate of 3.9505 per thousand vehicles stolen, somewhat above 
the 1983/84 median theft rate of 3.2712. BMW stated its belief that the 
antitheft device proposed for the MY 1995 7 Car line, with improvements 
that enhance the effectiveness of the antitheft system, will lower the 
7 Car line's theft rate. NHTSA has reviewed this showing of ``good 
cause'' and finds that making the modification of BMW'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 BMW 7 Car 
line that is the subject of this notice, in whole, from the 
requirements of 49 CFR part 541.
    If, in the future, BMW 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 section 541.5 and section 
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 that if BMW 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.''
    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 
    Issued on: September 13, 1994.
Ricardo Martinez,
[FR Doc. 94-23093 Filed 9-16-94; 8:45 am]

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