Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
1401 Eye Street, N.W., Suite 900
Washington, D.C. 20005-6562
Re: Legality of electronic devices that change odometer readings on motor vehicles
Dear Mr. Strassburger:
This letter is in reference to an April 9, 2013 conference call you had with David Sparks of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). During that conference call, you requested NHTSA’s view on the legality of devices that have appeared for sale on the internet that purport to change the mileage showing on electronic odometers of motor vehicles. These are essentially hand-held devices that connect directly with a vehicle’s on-board computer system through the vehicle’s diagnostic port and provide the user the ability to change the mileage displayed on the vehicle’s electronic odometer. In the Agency’s view, marketing for sale, sale, and/or use of such a device to change an odometer display constitute violations of Federal law. NHTSA would like to initiate a dialogue with the manufacturers concerning the implications of these devices’ ability to circumvent the algorithms used to secure a vehicle’s odometer reading.
Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 32703(1), a person may not advertise for sale, sell, use, install, or have installed, a device that makes an odometer of a motor vehicle register a mileage different from the mileage the vehicle was driven, as registered by the odometer within the designed tolerance of the manufacturer of the odometer.
It is NHTSA’s view that the marketing for sale and sale of hand-held devices that are capable of accessing a motor vehicle’s computer system to alter the mileage displayed on the vehicle’s odometer violates 49 U.S.C. § 32703(1). These devices make odometers register a mileage different from the mileage the vehicle was driven, whether or not the device is actually used to do so, and thus their marketing and sale violate the statute’s prohibition. As a result of the changes made by the MAP 21 statute last year, NHTSA can now impose civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation up to a maximum of $1,000,000 for a related series of violations under 49 U.S.C. § 32709.
We have also enclosed a copy of the related interpretation letters to Kenneth Rose and Dwayne Bitz, both dated May 31, 2012 that David Sparks referenced in your conference call. For your information we are posting copies of these interpretation letters to NHTSA’s public database at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov.
I hope this information adequately addresses your concerns. If you need any further assistance in this matter, please contact Marie Choi of my staff at (202) 366-1738 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
O. Kevin Vincent