Mr. Edward Kronk, 6/28/01

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This document retrieved from the NHTSA legal interpretations database.

    Mr. Edward M. Kronk
    Butzel Long, PC
    Suite 500
    150 West Jefferson
    Detroit, MI 48226-4430

    Dear Mr. Kronk:

    This is in reply to your letter of April 26, 2001, asking three questions about the relationship of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108 to lighting equipment that may be marketed as being for off-road use but that is capable of being installed on-road vehicles and used on the public highways. You remarked that "there is interest in the automotive enthusiast community in using so-called 'European-styled' or 'E-Code' Headlamps as replacement headlamps," and that they are not certified as complying with Standard No. 108. Your questions, and our responses, are set forth below.

      "1. May automotive headlamps that do not comply with FMVSS 108 be imported and sold in the US for "off-road" use on "off-road" vehicles?

    "Off-road" and "off-road vehicles" are not terms defined in Standard No 108 or in any other regulation or law that we administer, and have no legal meaning. You identify the headlamps as "replacement headlamps." In our view, S5.8, Replacement equipment, of Standard No. 108 requires that any motor vehicle replacement headlamp that is offered for sale in the United States must comply with the same requirements as are applicable to the original equipment that it replaces. I enclose letters on related subjects that we sent to Mitch L. Williams of Hella on July 17, 1998, and to Tobin Tracy of Clr Alt Accessories on April 17, 2001. We informed Mr. Tracy that "any item of motor vehicle lighting equipment manufactured to replace lighting equipment that is required on a new vehicle by Standard No. 108 must itself comply with Standard No. 108," and that such a term as "off-road" has no exclusionary meaning under Federal law.

      "2. Does the answer to question 1 change if, despite the express intent of the manufacturer and seller of the headlamps that they be used only "off-road," they are capable of being installed and used "on-road" in conventional "on-road" vehicles?

    As noted above, if the headlamps are capable of being installed and used in motor vehicles subject to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (i.e., "conventional 'on-road' vehicles"), they are motor vehicle headlamps that must comply with Standard No. 108 in order to be imported or sold regardless of the "intent" of the importer or seller. Even if we assume the best of intentions, we recognize that a seller has no control over the use of a product after it is sold.

      "3. If the importation and sale of such noncompliant headlamps intended for off-road use only is permitted, what packaging and labeling requirements, if any, apply to their importation and sale?

    As we have indicated in response to question 2, such lamps may not be imported or sold regardless of their packaging or labeling.

    I hope that this answers your questions.


    John Womack
    Acting Chief Counsel



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