DATE: December 11, 1995

FROM: Samuel J. Dubbin -- Chief Counsel, NHTSA

TO: Mr. William Shapiro -- Manager, Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Affairs, Volvo Cars of North America, Inc.


ATTACHMT: 10/16/95 letter from William Shapiro to John Womack (occ 11298)

TEXT: This is in response to your letter of October 16, 1995, to John Womack, requesting that we confirm your interpretation of certain provisions in the Bumper Standard, 49 CFR Part 581. As described in your letter, Volvo is contemplating attaching a device to the bumper face bar of its vehicles that will be used for purposes other than mitigating the effects of a low speed collision. In a telephone conversation on November 22, 1995, Steven Kraitz of your Office informed Coleman Sachs of my staff that the device will be some form of radar equipment, and that Volvo has yet to decide whether it will be offered as optional or as standard equipment on its vehicles.

You are of the opinion that even though this device could be damaged or destroyed in a low speed collision, the vehicles on which it is installed will still be in compliance with the Bumper Standard because it is not one of the components or systems that are specified in 49 CFR 581.5(c)(1) through (6) as having to remain operational after Bumper Standard compliance testing is performed. You further characterize this device as being "part of the bumper face bar" for the purposes of 49 CFR 581.5(c)(8). That section provides:

The exterior surfaces shall have no separations of surface materials, paint, polymeric coatings, or other covering materials from the surface to which they are bonded, and no permanent deviations from their original contours . . . except where such damag e occurs to the bumper face bar and the components and associated fasteners that directly attach the bumper face bar to the chassis frame.

We disagree with your opinion that the radar device that Volvo is considering for its vehicles is either an integral part of the bumper face bar, or a component that is needed to attach the bumper face bar to the chassis frame. Consequently, the device w ould not fall within the exception in 49 CFR 581.5(c)(8) quoted above.

Conditions for Bumper Standard compliance tests are specified at 49 CFR 581.6. Paragraph (a)(5) of that section states that "[running] lights, fog lamps, and equipment mounted on the bumper face bar are removed from the vehicle if they are optional equip ment." Therefore, if the radar device is to be offered as optional equipment, it must be removed from the test vehicle before Bumper Standard compliance testing is performed. In this circumstance, the vehicle's compliance with the Bumper Standard would not be affected if the device were unable to withstand low speed collisions. If the device is to be offered as standard equipment, however, it must remain on the vehicle while Bumper Standard compliance tests are performed, and must withstand those test s free of damage to meet the protective criteria specified in 49 CFR 581.5(c)(8).

If you have any further questions regarding this issue, feel free to contact Mr. Sachs at the above address, or by telephone at (202) 366-5238.