TYPE: Interpretation-NHTSA

DATE: March 16, 1994

FROM: John Womack -- Acting Chief Counsel, NHTSA

TO: John M. Tolliday -- President, Dayman USA Inc. (Bedford, VA)


ATTACHMT: Attached to letter dated 8/7/89 from Stephen P. Wood to Clifford Anglewicz (Sec 102); Also attached to letter dated 9/2/93 from John M. Tolliday to John Womack (OCC 9063)


We have received your letter of September 2, 1993, with respect to your wish to import "British Army Ferret Armored Cars." The armaments have been removed. You would be selling these vehicles "on the basis they would only be used for off road purposes." You ask whether the vehicles would be exempt from the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. You have enclosed two photos of the machine.

By way of background, I would like to discuss how military vehicles manufactured in the United States are treated under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the authority for the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS). The first qu estion to be answered is whether any particular vehicle is a "motor vehicle" as defined by the Safety Act, that is to say, whether it is a vehicle that has been manufactured primarily for use on the public roads. If we conclude that a vehicle is manufac tured primarily for on road use, it is a "motor vehicle," notwithstanding the fact that it may be sold "on the basis they would only be used for off road purposes." We see no way in which a seller can bind a purchaser to such use, and, certainly, such a restriction would not be binding on subsequent owners of the vehicle. As for individual vehicle types, to state the obvious, a tracked motor vehicle such as a tank intended for cross-country off-road terrains is not a "motor vehicle." If a vehicle, suc h as a military bus, has been manufactured primarily for on- road use, it is a "motor vehicle." However, NHTSA excuses vehicles from compliance with the FMVSS if they have been manufactured in accordance with contractual specifications of the armed forc es of the United States (49 CFR 571.7(a)). Furthermore, because the Safety Act does not regulate sales of vehicles to owners subsequent to the original one, the U.S. armed forces may sell military vehicles to the public at the end of their useful milita ry life without having to bring them into conformity with the FMVSS (however, because of safety policy considerations they have not done so with respect to M-151 jeeps and HMMV vehicles).

The importation of used military vehicles manufactured abroad is governed differently. Under the Safety Act, any "motor vehicle," whether new or used, that is imported into the United States must be brought into conformity with all FMVSS that applied at the time of its manufacture. The question that must be answered is whether a Ferret, at the time of importation, would be considered a "motor vehicle." In an interpretation concerning an "armored security vehicle" then being used by the U.S. armed for ces, we informed the manufacturer, Verne Corporation on August 7, 1989, that the vehicle would have to conform to the FMVSS if sold for civilian use. I enclose a copy of that interpretation. We believe that this interpretation applies to the Ferret as well, and, therefore, the vehicle is not exempt from the FMVSS. Because of the

overall configuration of the Ferret with its high approach and departure angles and its suitability for use on rough terrain, the FMVSS that would apply are those that must be met by a "multipurpose passenger vehicle."

Assuming you are still interested in importing the Ferret's for resale, the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act requires that the agency determine that the vehicles are capable of conversion to meet the FMVSS, and that the Ferrets be imported by a "re gistered importer." The agency makes determinations upon the basis of a petition by the manufacturer or registered importer (or upon its own volition). A "registered importer" is one whom NHTSA has recognized as capable of converting vehicles to meet t he FMVSS. If you would like further details on eligibility determinations and import procedures, please let us know and we shall be pleased to provide them.