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This document retrieved from the NHTSA legal interpretations database.

Mr. Mitch L. Williams
President & CEO
Hella, Inc.
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 Office (202-366-5263).

Frank Seales, Jr.
Chief Counsel


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This site is not affiliated with any Federal, State, or Local organization.  The goal is to be as factual as possible, however, the views expressed on this site are the opinions of the author and should not be used to determine the legality of motor vehicle equipment in accordance with Federal laws.  If you require a legal interpretation of your specific situation concerning FMVSS No. 108, you should contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Chief Counsel.