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American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Denial of Petition for Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  NHTSA

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Denial of Petition for Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Barry Felrice (Federal Register)
January 6, 1994


[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 4 (Thursday, January 6, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page 0]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-240]


[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: January 6, 1994]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
[Docket No. 93-34; Notice 2]

 

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Denial of Petition for 
Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance

    American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Honda) of Torrance, California 
determined that certain passenger cars failed to comply with 49 CFR 
571.208, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, ``Occupant 
Crash Protection,'' and filed an appropriate report pursuant to 49 CFR 
part 573. Honda also petitioned to be exempted from the notification 
and remedy requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle 
Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.) on the basis that the noncompliance 
is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety.
    Notice of receipt of the petition was published on May 21, 1993 (58 
FR 29689). This notice denies that petition.
    Paragraph S4.1.4.2 of Standard No. 208 requires that motor vehicles 
be equipped with seat belt assemblies that comply with Standard No. 
209, ``Seat Belt Assemblies.'' Paragraph S4.3(j)(3) of Standard No. 209 
requires that

    An emergency locking retractor of a Type 1 or Type 2 seat belt 
assembly * * * shall not lock, if the retractor is sensitive to 
vehicle acceleration, when the retractor is rotated in any direction 
to any angle of 15 degrees or less from its orientation in the 
vehicle * * *

    Honda determined that the seat belt assemblies for the rear outside 
seating positions of approximately 1.2 million model year 1990, 1991, 
1992, and early 1993 two-door and four-door Accords do not comply with 
S4.3(j)(3), the emergency locking retractor requirements of Standard 
No. 209. When the vehicle in which the noncomplying belt is installed 
is in certain parking positions such as on a steep uphill grade, the 
rear seat occupants are sometimes unable to pull the belt out of the 
retractor, and thus cannot fasten their belts. The vehicle must be 
moved to a more level position for the rear seat occupant to be able to 
put on the seat belt.
    Honda supported its petition for inconsequential noncompliance with 
the following arguments:
    In the petitioner's opinion, the noncompliance does not affect the 
occupant protection performance of the subject seat belt assemblies. To 
verify this, Honda tested the belts to determine whether they meet the 
locking requirements of Standard No. 209. All the belts complied with 
these requirements. Further, Honda performed dynamic sled test 
comparisons of the noncompliant belts to complaint belts at a test 
speed of 30 miles per hour. Honda found that the performance of the 
noncompliant belts was almost the same as that of the compliant belts.
    Honda stated that the primary effect of the noncompliant seat belts 
is inconvenience due to the rear seat occupant's inability to pull the 
belt out from the retractor under certain parking conditions, as when 
the vehicle is in a significant uphill parking position in excess of 11 
degrees, or when the vehicle has been parked such that one side of the 
vehicle is substantially higher than the other (at least nine degrees). 
Honda argued that the opportunities for parking an affected vehicle in 
this type of situation are very uncommon and would present a high level 
of discomfort to rear seat occupants from sitting at this angle. Honda 
has found that when the vehicle is parked on ground at lesser angles 
than previously noted, the noncompliant belts work completely normally.
    Honda reviewed its consumer records for complaints relating to the 
noncompliance. It found that consumers had registered a total of 173 
complaints regarding the 4-door sedan and 34 complaints regarding the 
2-door coupe. These complaints are known to be related to the subject 
noncompliance, as the problem is clearly described in the complaint. In 
addition, Honda received 168 complaints regarding the 4-door sedan and 
46 complaints regarding the 2-door coupe which were not clearly defined 
and may not be related to the subject noncompliance. The consumer 
complaint ratios, taking into account only the known related 
complaints, are 0.026 percent for the 4-door sedan and 0.014 percent 
for the 2-door coupe.
    Since Honda offers a lifetime warranty for seat belts, it will 
replace, free of charge, any unit that has a functional problem at any 
time during the life of the vehicle. In this instance, Honda will 
notify owners of the subject vehicles that it will replace the sensor 
in the noncompliant seat belt retractors if the customer experiences 
the locking problem.
    Honda concluded by stating that, although the noncomplying 
retractors may, in certain situations, result in the belt not being 
able to be pulled out of the retractor, this is a temporary condition 
which is remedied if the vehicle is moved from an uphill position of 
greater than 11 degrees or a lateral angle of greater than nine 
degrees. There is no risk to safety once the belt has been successfully 
fastened, since the performance of the belts is equal to those which 
are in total compliance with Standard No. 209. Because the seat belts 
have a lifetime warranty, any complaint concerning the ability to 
activate the belts will result in Honda replacing the belt with no cost 
to the consumer.
    No comments were received on the petition.
    Occupant protection has been a primary safety goal of the agency 
since its inception. Therefore, noncompliances with occupant protection 
requirements are treated with particular concern. The noncompliance 
described in the petition is one that occurs only under specific 
circumstances of vehicle attitude. That these circumstances are not 
isolated and occur with a degree of frequency is borne out by the 
number of complaints that Honda has received. Generally, a petitioner 
for a determination of inconsequentiality supports its arguments with 
the statement that no complaints have been received. In this instance, 
there have been sufficiently numerous expressions of concern to cause 
Honda to formulate a ``Product Improvement Campaign''. Honda has 
submitted to NHTSA a draft of its proposed letter to owners. The letter 
does not address the safety issue to NHTSA's satisfaction. The agency 
is concerned that the average recipient will not understand the safety-
relatedness of the problem described in the letter. As a result, the 
recipient would be less likely to respond to it than to a letter 
meeting the requirements of Part 577.
    NHTSA has concluded that the noncompliance is one that will have 
the immediate effect of creating frustration when the rear seat 
passenger is unable to pull the belt out of its retractor. This can 
deter the passenger from further efforts to wear the belt until the 
vehicle is once more at an attitude at which the belt may be fastened, 
or even create the impression that the belt is broken and that further 
attempts to dislodge it will be useless. Another possibility is that a 
parent may be unable initially to secure a child safety seat, then 
neglect to get out of the car to secure it when the vehicle is moved.
    Alternatively, the parent may respond by moving the child seat from 
the rear seat position to the front. This would be contrary to the 
agency's policy of encouraging parents to install child safety seats in 
the rear in view of the greater safety of that location. In NHTSA's 
view, any noncompliance that has the potential to decrease the chances 
of use of a seat belt is not one that is inconsequential. Therefore, 
both the notification letter and the remedy must be in accordance with 
Federal requirements.
    In consideration of the foregoing, it is hereby found that the 
petitioner has not met its burden of persuasion that the noncompliance 
herein described is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle 
safety, and its petition is denied.

(15 U.S.C. 1417; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 49 CFR 
501.8)

    Issued on: January 3, 1994.
Barry Felrice,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 94-240 Filed 1-5-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-M

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