Mr. Mitch L. Williams
President & CEO
P.O. Box 2665
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Dear Mr. Williams:
I am replying to your letter of June 9, 1998, to Richard Van
Iderstine of this agency. You write about Hella's new green rear lamp
assemblies that do not conform to SAE standards. These lamps are
"available in several colors," and "illuminate in the
normal stop, tail, and turn signal lamp colors." You would like to
sell the product for "show cars" and label the lamp "For
Off-road use only. Not for use on public highways. This product does not
conform to any U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard." You
believe that this situation is legal "assuming that no car dealer,
vehicle manufacturer or repair shop installs these lamps."
You also write that "this is a standard Hella accessory product
in other parts of the world" and that they meet Economic Commission
for Europe (ECE) requirements. You have furnished Mr. Van Iderstine with
a unit intended for installation on a Volkswagen Golf passenger car.
This is a sufficient basis for us to conclude that the rear lamp
assemblies that meet ECE passenger car requirements are intended as
replacement equipment for original equipment rear lamp assemblies, and
are "motor vehicle equipment" for purposes of regulation by
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Under the
laws that we administer, it is illegal to import into the United States
motor vehicle equipment that does not comply with all applicable Federal
motor vehicle safety standards. We
note that a statement indicating that the lamps "are not for use on
public highways" is not sufficient to exclude them from the
standard's applicability if they are, in fact, capable of being used as
replacement lamps. The two primary exceptions provided by statute
are if the equipment is intended solely for export and so labeled (49
U.S.C. 30112(b)(3)) or if the equipment requires further manufacturing
(49 U.S.C. 30112(b)(8)). Neither of these exceptions apply here. This
means that Hella may not import or sell this item of motor vehicle
equipment in the United States in the replacement market until such time
as Hella certifies compliance of the lamp assembly's functions with all
relevant requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 .
A civil penalty of up to $1,100 per violation may be imposed for
violation of these requirements, up to a total of $880,000 for any
related series of violations.
Under the third exception, noncomplying motor vehicle equipment may
be temporarily imported for purposes of research, investigation,
demonstrations, training, or competitive racing event. (49 U.S.C.
30114). This has been implemented by 49 CFR 591.6(j). Congress recently
amended Sec. 30114 to allow importation of nonconforming vehicles and
equipment for show and display as well. We are in the process of
amending Sec. 591(6)(j) to reflect the amendment.
Under the amendment, Hella, with NHTSA' permission ( Sec.
591.6(j)(2)) might be permitted to import some vehicles with green
taillamps for show or display, even though sale of the vehicle or the
lamps is not permitted. We would be disinclined to permit importation of
the lamps alone since they are shown or displayed to best advantage only
when they are installed on motor vehicles.
If you have further questions, you may call Taylor Vinson of this
Frank Seales, Jr.