Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Partial Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214, 64879-64883 [2014-25892]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 211 / Friday, October 31, 2014 / Notices Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477–78). Dated: October 23, 2014. By Order of the Maritime Administrator. Julie P. Agarwal, Secretary, Maritime Administration. [FR Doc. 2014–25954 Filed 10–30–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–81–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [Docket No. NHTSA–2014–0032] Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Partial Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT). AGENCY: Notice of partial grant of a petition for a temporary exemption from new requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 214, Side Impact Protection. ACTION: In accordance with the procedures in 49 CFR Part 555, NHTSA is partially granting a petition from Aston Martin Lagonda Limited (Aston Martin), a small volume manufacturer, for a temporary exemption from new side impact protection requirements of FMVSS No. 214. The agency is granting the petitioner’s request for a temporary exemption from the standard’s new pole test requirements, limited to 670 vehicles. The basis for the grant is that compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a low volume manufacturer that has tried in good faith to comply with the standard. In accordance with NHTSA’s regulations, prominent labels must be affixed to each exempted vehicle to warn prospective purchasers that the vehicle has been exempted from the pole test requirements. However, NHTSA is denying the petitioner’s separate request for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No. 214’s moving deformable barrier (MDB) test requirement. The agency does not believe that the petitioner has shown a need for such an exemption. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: This exemption from the pole test requirements applies to the following vehicles: • DB9 coupe model produced from September 1, 2014 until August 31, 2016; DATES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:51 Oct 30, 2014 Jkt 235001 • DB9 convertible model produced from September 1, 2015 until August 31, 2016; • Vantage coupe model produced from September 1, 2014 until August 31, 2017; and • Vantage convertible model produced from September 1, 2015 until August 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Deirdre R. Fujita, Office of the Chief Counsel, NCC–112, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366–2992; Fax: (202) 366–3820. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NHTSA is granting a request from Aston Martin for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No. 214’s new pole test requirements. The basis for the grant is that compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a low volume manufacturer that has tried in good faith to comply with the standard. NHTSA finds that Aston Martin has made a good faith effort to meet the pole test requirements by, inter alia, installing side air bags in its vehicles substantially ahead of the date on which it was required to do so by that standard. Further, Aston Martin believes that its test data indicate that its vehicles may in fact pass the performance criteria of the pole test with the current side air bag. However, the petitioner believes further that a tested vehicle did not produce test results with a margin sufficient to enable it to certify compliance with the pole test. NHTSA also concludes that denying the petition regarding the pole test, thus forcing a cessation of production until the affected vehicles could be upgraded, would cause petitioner substantial economic hardship and that it is warranted under Part 555 to provide the petitioner time to produce vehicles with a side air bag system that enables the vehicle to pass the pole test requirement with a greater margin. I. Background a. Statutory Authority for Temporary Exemptions The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act) recognizes that small manufacturers have more limited resources and capabilities than large manufacturers for meeting NHTSA’s standards. The Safety Act provides the Secretary of Transportation authority to grant a temporary exemption to a manufacturer whose total motor vehicle production in the most recent year of production is not more than 10,000 vehicles, if the exemption would be consistent with the PO 00000 Frm 00139 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 64879 public interest and the Safety Act, and compliance with the standard would cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried to comply with the standard in good faith.1 Such an exemption may be granted for not more than 3 years (49 U.S.C. 30113(e)).2 NHTSA established 49 CFR Part 555, Temporary Exemption from Motor Vehicle Safety and Bumper Standards, to implement the statutory provisions concerning temporary exemptions. Under Part 555, a petitioner must provide specified information in submitting a petition for exemption. Among other matters, the petitioner must set forth the basis of the application and a description of its efforts to comply with the standards. b. FMVSS No. 214 In 2007, NHTSA published a final rule upgrading FMVSS No. 214.3 The rule incorporated a dynamic pole test into the standard, requiring vehicle manufacturers to assure head and improved chest protection in side crashes by technologies such as head protection side air bags and torso side air bags. The final rule adopted use of two advanced test dummies in the new pole test, one called the ES–2re representing mid-size males, and the other called the SID–IIs, which represents small stature females. The final rule also enhanced the standard’s MDB test by replacing the then-existing 50th percentile adult male dummy used in the front seat of tested vehicles with the more biofidelic ES–2re dummy and by using the SID–IIs dummy in the rear seat. The pole and enhanced MDB test requirements were phased in, starting in 2010 for most vehicles (see S13 4), but manufacturers producing or assembling fewer than 5,000 vehicles annually for sale in the United States had a different 1 This authority is set forth at 49 U.S.C. 30113. The Secretary has delegated the authority for implementing this section to NHTSA. 2 The Safety Act expressly provides for renewal of an exemption on reapplication. A renewal under subsection (b)(3)(B)(i) may be granted for not more than 3 years. However, NHTSA cautions manufacturers that the agency’s decision to grant an initial petition in no way predetermines that the agency will repeatedly grant renewal petitions, thereby imparting semi-permanent status to an exemption from a safety standard. Exempted manufacturers seeking renewal must bear in mind that the agency is directed to consider financial hardship as but one factor. We also consider the manufacturer’s ongoing good faith efforts to comply with the regulation, the public interest, consistency with the Safety Act generally, as well as other such matters provided in the statute. 3 72 FR 51908 (September 11, 2007); response to petitions for reconsideration 73 FR 32473 (June 9, 2008), 75 FR 12123 (March 15, 2010). 4 References in this paragraph are to sections in FMVSS No. 214. E:\FR\FM\31OCN1.SGM 31OCN1 64880 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 211 / Friday, October 31, 2014 / Notices schedule (see S9.1.3(a)(1) and S7.2.4(a)(1)). These manufacturers were excluded from the phase-in of the pole test requirements but are required to certify the compliance of vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2014. For convertibles, the pole test applies to vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2015 (S9.1.3(d)(1)). The enhanced MDB test requirement has the same phase-in schedule and compliance dates as the pole test (see MDB requirements, S7.2.1, S7.2.4(a), and S7.2.4(a)(3)). With regard to the phase-in, Aston Martin manufactures approximately 4,000 Aston Martin brand vehicles per year worldwide. Thus, the requirements that are the subject of the petition are FMVSS No. 214’s pole and enhanced MDB requirements applying to the petitioner’s sedans (coupes) manufactured on or after September 1, 2014, and to its convertibles manufactured on or after September 1, 2015. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES c. Overview of Petition 5 In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113 and the procedures in 49 CFR Part 555, Aston Martin petitioned NHTSA requesting a temporary exemption from the pole test requirements and enhanced MDB test of FMVSS No. 214. The basis for the application is that compliance would cause Aston Martin substantial economic hardship and that the petitioner has tried in good faith to comply with the standard. Aston Martin has asked for a temporary exemption for two of its four vehicle models, the DB9 and Vantage. At the time NHTSA issued the pole test and enhanced MDB test requirements in 2007, Aston Martin was planning a new generation of the DB9 and Vantage models. Aston Martin’s plan was to: (a) Replace the DB9 and Vantage models with new generation models that would meet the new requirements by the 2014 compliance date; and (b) apply its resources toward redesigning two other models (the Vanquish and Rapide S), that were not scheduled for replacement before 2014, to achieve compliance with the requirements by 2014. However, ‘‘because of little market recovery since 2009,’’ 6 Aston Martin’s sales volumes have not been sufficient to fund the first part of the original plan, 5 Aston Martin originally submitted a petition in July 2013, and then resubmitted its petition in November 2013. A copy of the November 6, 2013 petition is in the docket for this document. To view the petition, go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter Docket Number NHTSA–2014–0032. A summary is also provided in NHTSA’s notice of receipt of the petition, 79 FR 17231, infra. 6 Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 18. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:51 Oct 30, 2014 Jkt 235001 and the DB9 and Vantage models ‘‘now have to remain in production slightly longer than anticipated.’’ 7 The petitioner states that due to funding constraints, Aston Martin could not initiate the start of FMVSS No. 214 compliance programs on the next generation DB9 and Vantage vehicles until April 2013, when the company received funds from an investor that could be used to deliver the next generation of vehicles. The petitioner states: ‘‘This capital increase did not include monies for FMVSS 214 compliance for DB9 & Vantage car lines as the next generation of models were originally planned to be launched in August 2014.’’ 8 Aston Martin states it needs the exemption to continue production of the DB9 and Vantage for the U.S. market until the replacement generation vehicles are ready. Aston Martin requested that approximately 670 vehicles be covered by the exemption. Aston Martin believes that the cost of meeting the pole and enhanced MDB requirements for these vehicles ‘‘would be cost prohibitive given that these models will cease USA production in the near term and the cost of amortization over the approximately 670 cars at issue would be economically infeasible.’’ 9 The petition requests an exemption for the following periods: • DB9 coupe model production from September 1, 2014 until August 31, 2016; • DB9 convertible model production from September 1, 2015 until August 31, 2016; • Vantage coupe model production from September 1, 2014 until August 31, 2017; and, • Vantage convertible model production from September 1, 2015 until August 31, 2017. Petitioner’s Assertion That Granting the Petition Is in the Public Interest Aston Martin asserts that the requested exemption is consistent with the public interest for the following reasons. 1. Aston Martin states that it knows of no deaths or serious injuries that were 7 Id., p. 11. exhibit 6, p. 2. 9 The petitioner has provided engineering and financial information demonstrating how compliance or failure to obtain an exemption would cause substantial economic hardship; a description of its efforts to comply with the standards; why it believes granting the petition is in the public interest; a discussion of alternate means of compliance considered; a description of the steps it will take while the exemption is in effect and the estimated date by which full compliance will be achieved. The petitioner provided confidential production figures in support of its claims. 8 Id., PO 00000 Frm 00140 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 associated with side impact events or related to the current FMVSS No. 214 protection system in current DB9 and Vantage models. Further, the petitioner also states that 10— the pole tests that Aston Martin has performed on a DB9 test car did in fact pass the minimum pole test requirements in FMVSS 214. However, Aston Martin cannot self-certify compliance on the basis of a single test with the margin of pass obtained in that test. . . . Nonetheless the pass does indicate that the risk to the public in the existent car would not be contrary to the public interest. 2. Denial would force removal of a vehicle currently sold in the U.S. 3. The number of vehicles to be sold in the U.S. during the exemption period is very low and the number of annual miles driven in Aston Martin vehicles is very low (on average 2,617 miles).11 4. Granting the exemption would protect consumer choice.12 5. The current DB9 and Vantage models comply with all FMVSSs other than the requirements of FMVSS No. 214 that are the subject of the petition, and meet the requirements of the upgraded roof crush resistance standard (FMVSS No. 216) ahead of the September 1, 2015 compliance date for the vehicles (final rule upgrading FMVSS No. 216, 74 FR 22348, May 12, 2009). 6. Aston Martin refers to a decision by NHTSA to grant a Lotus request for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No 208 and states that the agency made clear that a limited exemption is considered to be far more in the public interest compared to a broad waiver. Aston Martin states: ‘‘The request here is precisely so limited.’’ 13 7. The denial of the exemption request would have a negative effect on U.S. employment.14 10 The petitioner provided the values recorded by the test dummy in the crash test. 11 The petitioner refers to a 2006 decision by NHTSA to grant a request for a temporary exemption from Ferrari (71 FR 29389) (‘‘Ferrari grant’’), in which NHTSA noted that the low number of vehicles affected by the exemption (less than 2,000) and the low number of annual miles driven in the vehicles were factors supporting a finding that the exemption will have a negligible impact on motor vehicle safety. 12 On this point, the petitioner cites the 2006 Ferrari grant and includes the following statement from NHTSA: ‘‘As discussed in previous decisions on temporary exemption applications, the agency believes that the public interest is served by affording consumers a wider variety of motor vehicle choices.’’ (71 FR at 29390.) 13 Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 12. The petitioner did not provide a citation for ‘‘the recent Lotus decision’’ but we assume the reference is to NHTSA’s document at 78 FR 15114, March 8, 2013, infra. 14 Aston Martin references the Ferrari grant, in which NHTSA stated (71 FR at 29390): ‘‘We note E:\FR\FM\31OCN1.SGM 31OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 211 / Friday, October 31, 2014 / Notices II. Notice of Receipt and Summary of Comments asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES On March 27, 2014, NHTSA published in the Federal Register (79 FR 17231; Docket No. NHTSA–2014– 0032) a notice of receipt of Aston Martin’s petition for a temporary exemption, and provided an opportunity for public comment. NHTSA received no comments opposing the petition. Over 40 comments were received supporting the petition.15 These comments were from the Aston Martin dealers in the U.S., many of their employees, and some Aston Martin owners. Each of the dealers emphasized strong concerns about the negative impact that elimination of the DB9 and Vantage models would have on their dealerships,16 as the dealers would be restricted in their product range and would only be able to sell Vanquish and Rapide S, which, the commenters asserted, would impact their ability to maintain a financially viable operation. All of the dealers expressed alarm about the impact that a denial of the petition would have on all tiers of employment 17 at their place of business and in their community.18 All of the dealers emphasized that jobs would be lost at their dealership if the DB9 and Vantage models could not be sold. Employees who commented expressed worry about their jobs if the petition were denied. Many dealers expressed concern about the effect of a denial on present and future customer support,19 as the ‘‘Thinning of our network could expose customers to complete loss of ownership support—ex. loss of the Seattle store would place next closest store in [San Francisco] area 850 miles away.’’ 20 Aston Martin Washington DC dealer principal James R. Walker states in his comment 21 that currently, Aston Martin dealers are ‘‘barely profitable’’ and that franchise composition is fragile. Mr. that Ferrari is a well-established company with a small but not insignificant U.S. presence and we believe that an 85 percent sales reduction would negatively affect U.S. employment. Specifically, reduction in sales would likely affect employment not only at Ferrari North America, but also at Ferrari dealers, repair specialists, and several small service providers that transport Ferrari vehicles from the port of entry to the rest of the United States. Traditionally, the agency has concluded that the public interest is served in affording continued employment to the petitioner’s U.S. work force.’’ 15 In this section, we refer to comments by their entry number in Docket No. NHTSA–2014–0032. 16 See, e.g., comment 0028. 17 See, e.g., comments 0020 and 0032. 18 Comment 0028. 19 Comment 0048. 20 Comment 0003. 21 Id. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:51 Oct 30, 2014 Jkt 235001 Walker believes that the loss of sales of the DB9 and Vantage could very likely result in some dealers deciding to ‘‘shutter the franchise,’’ which would result in a significant impact on employment. The commenter estimates that if dealers decide to ‘‘shutter’’ franchises, 230 Aston Martin employees in the U.S. would face the loss of their jobs, along with a ‘‘substantial number’’ of another 300 jobs that are in part supported by Aston Martin. Agency Decision a. Pole Test Requirement NHTSA is granting Aston Martin’s request for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No. 214’s new pole test requirements. The granting of hardship exemptions from FMVSSs is conditioned on the agency’s finding that the petitioning manufacturer has ‘‘tried to comply with the standard in good faith.’’ 22 A petitioning manufacturer’s effort to comply with the standard from which exemption is sought is thus extremely important to NHTSA when considering a hardship exemption. On March 8, 2013, NHTSA granted a temporary exemption petition request from Group Lotus plc (Lotus) regarding an advanced air bag requirement 23 of FMVSS No. 208, ‘‘Occupant crash protection.’’ While NHTSA granted the petition, the agency did so while emphasizing an evolved agency view of such petitions.24 The advanced air bag requirement had engendered a number of hardship petitions from small volume manufacturers, which typically were granted when the manufacturer had supplied standard air bags instead of advanced air bags. However, as time went on and the years passed following adoption of the advanced air bag requirements, NHTSA decided it was not in the public interest to continue to grant exemptions from the requirements ‘‘under the same terms as in the past.’’ 25 NHTSA stated in the Lotus notice (78 FR at 15115)— In deciding whether to grant an exemption based on substantial economic hardship and good faith efforts, NHTSA considers the steps that the manufacturer has already taken to achieve compliance, as well as the future steps the manufacturer plans to take during U.S.C. 30113(b)(3)(B)(i). 2000, NHTSA published a final rule that upgraded FMVSS No. 208’s requirements for air bags in passenger cars and light trucks, requiring what are commonly known as ‘‘advanced air bags.’’ See final rule at 65 FR 30680, May 12, 2000. 24 78 FR 15114. 25 78 FR at 15115, col. 2. See also denial of petition of Pagani Automobili SpA, 76 FR 47641, August 5, 2011. 64881 the exemption period and the estimated date by which full compliance will be achieved.26 That announcement was made in the context of the advanced air bag hardship petitions relating to the May 2000 final rule. The majority of the petitions then before the agency were petitions for extension of previously granted exemptions. The advanced air bag exemption requests contrast somewhat with Aston Martin’s request for an exemption from the FMVSS No. 214 pole test requirement, since the latter is a new requirement adopted in 2007. Nonetheless, the announcement in the Lotus notice signaled that the agency has sharpened its focus on the effort that manufacturers make to achieve compliance when claiming financial hardship in meeting a standard. With that background in mind, NHTSA has analyzed Aston Martin’s petition and the effort that the petitioner made to meet the pole test requirement. NHTSA believes that the petitioner has tried to comply with the pole test requirement in good faith. The FMVSS No. 214 pole test requires vehicle manufacturers to provide head and improved chest protection in side crashes. Manufacturers currently meet the pole test requirement by way of side air bag technology. Installing a side air bag in a vehicle that does not have a side air bag is an intensive endeavor involving extensive redesign of the vehicle’s side structure and seating system, and includes installation of side impact sensors that sense when to deploy the side air bag and sensors that monitor side air bag readiness. In short, installation of side air bags involves a significant investment of effort, planning, resources, and vehicle redesign. In 2006, Aston Martin began installing side air bags in the DB9 and Vantage model vehicles. Side air bags were considered advanced technology at the time and were generally not needed to meet the FMVSSs that had applied to passenger vehicles. Yet, motor vehicle manufacturers began incorporating side air bag technology in response to NHTSA’s call for action to improve vehicle compatibility in vehicle-tovehicle crashes of higher-riding light trucks and vans (LTVs) with passenger cars.27 The voluntary installation of side 22 49 23 In PO 00000 Frm 00141 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 26 49 CFR 555.6(a)(2). [Footnote in text.] notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the FMVSS No. 214 pole test, 69 FR 27990, 27995; May 17, 2004. NHTSA’s call for action resulted in a ‘‘voluntary industry commitment’’ by vehicle manufacturers in 2003 to enhance occupant protection in side crashes of LTVs into passenger cars by accelerating the installation of side impact air bags. 27 See E:\FR\FM\31OCN1.SGM 31OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 64882 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 211 / Friday, October 31, 2014 / Notices impact air bags by vehicle manufacturers prior to a Federal mandate was considered by NHTSA to be a laudable industry initiative to meet the goal of saving lives ‘‘sooner than through the traditional regulatory approach.’’ 28 Aston Martin’s installation of side air bags in the DB9 and Vantage model vehicles involved a significant investment of work and resources on the part of the petitioner. We conclude that the petitioner’s installation of the safety countermeasures 8 years ahead of the September 1, 2014 effective date of the final rule is evidence of a good faith effort to meet the pole test requirement. In 2011, the manufacturer crash tested a DB9 coupe in an FMVSS No. 214 pole test and found that that the performance was not with a margin sufficient to enable Aston Martin to certify compliance with the pole test. Yet, data from the test show that ES–2re dummy readings were actually below the performance threshold of FMVSS No. 214. The ‘‘passing’’ values obtained from the test are further evidence of the petitioner’s good faith effort to meet the pole test requirement. We note that the petitioner has asked for a 3-year exemption for just one of the models (Vantage Coupe) and only a 1- to 2-year exemption for the other 3 models covered by the petition. These short periods indicate that the petitioner is expeditiously working toward producing fully compliant next generation DB9 and Vantage vehicles and that the exemption requested is just for a relatively short term. In addition, Aston Martin indicates that it is engineering the next generation DB9 replacement coupe to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 226, Ejection Mitigation, a year earlier than required by that standard.29 These factors are positive indicators of the effort Aston Martin plans to make during the exemption period to produce newly designed and fully compliant DB9 and Vantage models. After considering Aston Martin’s early installation of side air bags, the performance of the current side air bags and petitioner’s progress toward producing the next generation DB9 and Vantage models, we believe that Aston Martin has tried to comply with the pole test requirement in good faith. Granting the petition on the pole test provides Aston Martin additional time to build on its efforts and achieve greater margins in passing the pole test, which 28 Id. 29 Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 11. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:51 Oct 30, 2014 Jkt 235001 the petitioner believes it needs to fully certify the vehicles to FMVSS No. 214. A grant is consistent with the Safety Act. NHTSA searched the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS–CDS) data for years 2000 to the present. The FARS and NASS–CDS databases do not contain any instance in which Aston Martin vehicles were involved in side crashes resulting in injury or fatality. This information, and the fact that the DB9 and Vantage vehicles already have side impact air bags, support our finding that an exemption will have a negligible impact on motor vehicle safety. Several factors support a finding that granting Aston Martin’s exemption regarding the pole test is in the public interest. The number of vehicles at issue is 670. Further, we agree with Aston Martin that the relatively low number of miles driven by the vehicle because of its nature as a second vehicle will mean that the vehicle is less likely to be involved in a crash than a vehicle that is the primary means of transportation. Further, denial of the request would remove a vehicle that is currently being sold in the U.S. market. Given that the DB9 and Vantage models comprise two of the four models produced by Aston Martin, the withdrawal of the models from the market would appreciably reduce Aston Martin’s presence in the U.S. for a significant period.30 Denial of the petition would create hardship for U.S. workers. NHTSA has given due consideration to the comments in the docket from affected Aston Martin dealers and their employees. A grant will avoid the possibility of job losses and other negative consequences at U.S. dealerships, such as possible closure of some servicing facilities which could negatively affect the ability of customers to service, maintain, and fix any problems with their vehicles in a timely manner. We also conclude that Aston Martin demonstrated the requisite potential financial hardship. The petitioner has had a cumulative net loss position over the past several years. Denial of the petition would require Aston Martin to expend a large amount of capital to modify the DB9 and Vantage right before the model year change or would force the petitioner to cease sales of the vehicles in the U.S. Either outcome would cause substantial economic hardship to the petitioner. 30 NHTSA has traditionally found that the public interest is served by affording consumers the choice of a wider variety of motor vehicles. PO 00000 Frm 00142 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 After considering all of the relevant information, we have decided to grant Aston Martin a temporary exemption from the pole test of FMVSS No. 214 for the periods designated at the beginning of this document in the DATES section. However, the total number of vehicles that may be produced under this exemption is limited to 670. We note that, as explained below, prospective purchasers of the exempted vehicles will be notified that the vehicles are exempted from the pole test of FMVSS No. 214. Under 49 CFR 555.9(b), a manufacturer of an exempted passenger car must securely affix to the windshield or side window of each exempted vehicle a label containing a statement that the vehicle conforms to all applicable FMVSSs in effect on the date of manufacture ‘‘except for Standard Nos. [listing the standards by number and title for which an exemption has been granted] exempted pursuant to NHTSA Exemption No. ______.’’ This label notifies prospective purchasers about the exemption and its subject. Under § 555.9(c), this information must also be included on the vehicle’s certification label. The text of § 555.9 does not expressly indicate how the required statement on the two labels should read in situations in which an exemption covers part, but not all, of a FMVSS. In this case, we believe that a statement that the vehicle has been exempted from Standard No. 214 generally, without an indication that the exemption is limited to the pole test provision, could be misleading. A consumer might incorrectly believe that the vehicle has been exempted from all of FMVSS No. 214’s requirements. For this reason, we believe the two labels should read in relevant part, ‘‘except for the pole test of Standard No. 214, Side Impact Protection, exempted pursuant to * * *.’’ In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113(b)(3)(B)(i), Aston Martin is granted NHTSA Temporary Exemption No. EX 14–01, from the pole test requirement of 49 CFR 571.214 for the DB9 and Vantage models. The exemption is for no more than 670 vehicles and it shall remain effective for the periods designated at the beginning of this document in the DATES section. b. MDB Requirement Aston Martin also requested an exemption for the DB9 and Vantage vehicles from FMVSS No. 214’s amended MDB test requirement. The basis for the request appears to be to E:\FR\FM\31OCN1.SGM 31OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 211 / Friday, October 31, 2014 / Notices basis for the request appears to be to allow the petitioner to avoid having 31— DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION to test pole-exempted models for new MDB compliance—and possibly have to reengineer to achieve satisfactory results. Then, before the pole test exemption ended, Aston Martin would have to retest and reengineer these pole-exempted models for A SECOND TIME, in order to achieve both new MDB and Pole test compliance. NHTSA clearly sought to allow lead time to avoid this double burden. [Emphasis in text.] Surface Transportation Board The agency is denying Aston Martin’s request to be exempted from the MDB requirement. We conclude that an exemption is not necessary on the basis of the information before it. Aston Martin submitted FMVSS No. 214 MDB test data 32 of a DB9 Volante convertible, Vantage coupe, and Vantage Roadster convertible tested with the mid-size adult male side impact dummy (SID) that FMVSS No. 214 had specified for use in the MDB test prior to the ES–2re. The data show that the vehicles appear to have passed the performance thresholds of FMVSS No. 214’s MDB test by a wide margin with the SID. In the final rule adopting the new MDB requirements into FMVSS No. 214 (requirements which use the ES–2re), NHTSA set forth findings indicating that manufacturers would likely not need to modify vehicles to meet the new MBD requirements when using the ES–2re in place of the SID.33 Moreover, data indicate that vehicles that pass the MDB requirement using the SID will likely pass the MDB test using the ES– 2re. The DB9 and Vantage models have easily passed the MDB test using the SID. Thus, we believe that data indicate the DB9 and Vantage models will pass the MDB test with the ES–2re and do not need a temporary exemption from the new MDB requirement. Accordingly, NHTSA is denying petitioner’s request for an exemption from the new MDB requirement due to an absence of information showing such an exemption is needed. Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30113; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95. Dated: October 22, 2014. David J. Friedman, Deputy Administrator. [FR Doc. 2014–25892 Filed 10–30–14; 8:45 am] asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES BILLING CODE 4910–59–P 31 See Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 5. 32 Accorded confidential treatment by NHTSA. 33 NHTSA believed that vehicle modifications would likely result from adding the SID–IIs 5th percentile adult female dummy to the rear seat of the MDB test. See 72 FR at 51947. The SID–IIs is not used in tests of Aston Martin vehicles because the vehicles do not have a rear seat or one large enough to accommodate the SID–IIs. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:47 Oct 30, 2014 Jkt 235001 [Docket No. FD 35866] Massachusetts Department of Transportation—Acquisition Exemption—Certain Assets of Housatonic Railroad Company, Inc. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), a noncarrier, has filed a verified notice of exemption under 49 CFR 1150.31 to acquire from Housatonic Railroad Company, Inc. (HRRC) and Maybrook Railroad Company (MRC) 1 certain railroad assets comprising a section of the ‘‘Berkshire Line,’’ extending from approximately milepost 50.0 at the MassachusettsConnecticut border at Sheffield, Mass., to a connection with CSX Transportation, Inc., at approximately milepost 86.3 at Pittsfield, Mass., a distance of approximately 36.3 miles (the Line). According to MassDOT, the acquisition of the Line is intended to facilitate the Commonwealth’s longterm plans to restore regional passenger train service linking the Berkshire region of western Massachusetts with the New York City metropolitan area and the Northeast Corridor megalopolis. MassDOT states that the acquisition of the Line is one step in what MassDOT anticipates will be an involved, multistep process that ultimately will lead to the establishment of a new railroad passenger service route in the Northeast. MassDOT states that, pursuant to a draft Purchase and Sale Contract, MassDOT has secured the right to purchase MRC’s and HRRC’s respective rights, title, and interest in the right-of-way, trackage, and other physical assets (such as signboard and fiber optics unrelated to the provision of common carrier freight service) associated with the Line, subject to HRRC’s retained exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual, assignable, divisible, licensable, and transferable freight railroad operating easement. MassDOT also states that it will not acquire the right, nor will it have the ability, to provide rail common carrier service over the Line.2 According to MassDOT, the agreements governing the subject asset sale and post-transaction railroad operations preclude MassDOT 1 MassDOT states that MRC is not a rail carrier for purposes of the present transaction and, therefore, is not listed in the proceeding caption. 2 A motion to dismiss the notice of exemption on grounds that the transaction does not require authorization from the Board was concurrently filed with this notice of exemption. The motion to dismiss will be addressed in a subsequent Board decision. PO 00000 Frm 00143 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 64883 from interfering materially with the provision of railroad common carrier service over the Line. MassDOT, however, will be entitled in the future to initiate (itself, or through a designated third party) intercity passenger service and regional commuter rail service over the Line. MassDOT states that the proposed transaction does not involve any provision or agreement that would limit future interchange with a third-party connecting carrier. MassDOT certifies that, because it will conduct no freight operations on the line segment being acquired, its revenues from freight operations will not result in the creation of a Class I or Class II carrier. MassDOT also states that the parties expect to consummate the transaction on or about December 15, 2014, which is after the effective date of November 15, 2014. If the verified notice contains false or misleading information, the exemption is void ab initio. Petitions to revoke the exemption under 49 U.S.C. 10502(d) may be filed at any time. The filing of a petition to revoke will not automatically stay the effectiveness of the exemption. Petitions to stay must be filed no later than November 7, 2014 (at least seven days before the exemption becomes effective). An original and ten copies of all pleadings, referring to Docket No. FD 35866, must be filed with the Surface Transportation Board, 395 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20423–0001. In addition, a copy of each pleading must be served on Robert A. Wimbish, Fletcher & Sippel LLC, 29 North Wacker Drive, Suite 920, Chicago, IL 60606– 2832. Board decisions and notices are available on our Web site at www.stb.dot.gov. Decided: October 28, 2014. By the Board, Rachel D. Campbell, Director, Office of Proceedings. Jeffrey Herzig, Clearance Clerk. [FR Doc. 2014–25938 Filed 10–30–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4915–01–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Surface Transportation Board [STB Docket No. FD 35523] CSX Transportation, Inc.—Joint Use— Louisville & Indiana Railroad Company, Inc. AGENCY: Surface Transportation Board, DOT. E:\FR\FM\31OCN1.SGM 31OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 211 (Friday, October 31, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 64879-64883]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-25892]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0032]


Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Partial Grant of Petition for 
Temporary Exemption From New Requirements of Standard No. 214

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of partial grant of a petition for a temporary exemption 
from new requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 
No. 214, Side Impact Protection.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the procedures in 49 CFR Part 555, NHTSA is 
partially granting a petition from Aston Martin Lagonda Limited (Aston 
Martin), a small volume manufacturer, for a temporary exemption from 
new side impact protection requirements of FMVSS No. 214. The agency is 
granting the petitioner's request for a temporary exemption from the 
standard's new pole test requirements, limited to 670 vehicles. The 
basis for the grant is that compliance would cause substantial economic 
hardship to a low volume manufacturer that has tried in good faith to 
comply with the standard. In accordance with NHTSA's regulations, 
prominent labels must be affixed to each exempted vehicle to warn 
prospective purchasers that the vehicle has been exempted from the pole 
test requirements.
    However, NHTSA is denying the petitioner's separate request for a 
temporary exemption from FMVSS No. 214's moving deformable barrier 
(MDB) test requirement. The agency does not believe that the petitioner 
has shown a need for such an exemption.

DATES: This exemption from the pole test requirements applies to the 
following vehicles:
     DB9 coupe model produced from September 1, 2014 until 
August 31, 2016;
     DB9 convertible model produced from September 1, 2015 
until August 31, 2016;
     Vantage coupe model produced from September 1, 2014 until 
August 31, 2017; and
     Vantage convertible model produced from September 1, 2015 
until August 31, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Deirdre R. Fujita, Office of the Chief 
Counsel, NCC-112, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: 
(202) 366-2992; Fax: (202) 366-3820.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:  NHTSA is granting a request from Aston 
Martin for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No. 214's new pole test 
requirements. The basis for the grant is that compliance would cause 
substantial economic hardship to a low volume manufacturer that has 
tried in good faith to comply with the standard. NHTSA finds that Aston 
Martin has made a good faith effort to meet the pole test requirements 
by, inter alia, installing side air bags in its vehicles substantially 
ahead of the date on which it was required to do so by that standard. 
Further, Aston Martin believes that its test data indicate that its 
vehicles may in fact pass the performance criteria of the pole test 
with the current side air bag. However, the petitioner believes further 
that a tested vehicle did not produce test results with a margin 
sufficient to enable it to certify compliance with the pole test.
    NHTSA also concludes that denying the petition regarding the pole 
test, thus forcing a cessation of production until the affected 
vehicles could be upgraded, would cause petitioner substantial economic 
hardship and that it is warranted under Part 555 to provide the 
petitioner time to produce vehicles with a side air bag system that 
enables the vehicle to pass the pole test requirement with a greater 
margin.

I. Background

a. Statutory Authority for Temporary Exemptions

    The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act) 
recognizes that small manufacturers have more limited resources and 
capabilities than large manufacturers for meeting NHTSA's standards. 
The Safety Act provides the Secretary of Transportation authority to 
grant a temporary exemption to a manufacturer whose total motor vehicle 
production in the most recent year of production is not more than 
10,000 vehicles, if the exemption would be consistent with the public 
interest and the Safety Act, and compliance with the standard would 
cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried to 
comply with the standard in good faith.\1\ Such an exemption may be 
granted for not more than 3 years (49 U.S.C. 30113(e)).\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ This authority is set forth at 49 U.S.C. 30113. The 
Secretary has delegated the authority for implementing this section 
to NHTSA.
    \2\ The Safety Act expressly provides for renewal of an 
exemption on reapplication. A renewal under subsection (b)(3)(B)(i) 
may be granted for not more than 3 years. However, NHTSA cautions 
manufacturers that the agency's decision to grant an initial 
petition in no way predetermines that the agency will repeatedly 
grant renewal petitions, thereby imparting semi-permanent status to 
an exemption from a safety standard. Exempted manufacturers seeking 
renewal must bear in mind that the agency is directed to consider 
financial hardship as but one factor. We also consider the 
manufacturer's ongoing good faith efforts to comply with the 
regulation, the public interest, consistency with the Safety Act 
generally, as well as other such matters provided in the statute.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NHTSA established 49 CFR Part 555, Temporary Exemption from Motor 
Vehicle Safety and Bumper Standards, to implement the statutory 
provisions concerning temporary exemptions. Under Part 555, a 
petitioner must provide specified information in submitting a petition 
for exemption. Among other matters, the petitioner must set forth the 
basis of the application and a description of its efforts to comply 
with the standards.

b. FMVSS No. 214

    In 2007, NHTSA published a final rule upgrading FMVSS No. 214.\3\ 
The rule incorporated a dynamic pole test into the standard, requiring 
vehicle manufacturers to assure head and improved chest protection in 
side crashes by technologies such as head protection side air bags and 
torso side air bags. The final rule adopted use of two advanced test 
dummies in the new pole test, one called the ES-2re representing mid-
size males, and the other called the SID-IIs, which represents small 
stature females. The final rule also enhanced the standard's MDB test 
by replacing the then-existing 50th percentile adult male dummy used in 
the front seat of tested vehicles with the more biofidelic ES-2re dummy 
and by using the SID-IIs dummy in the rear seat.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ 72 FR 51908 (September 11, 2007); response to petitions for 
reconsideration 73 FR 32473 (June 9, 2008), 75 FR 12123 (March 15, 
2010).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The pole and enhanced MDB test requirements were phased in, 
starting in 2010 for most vehicles (see S13 \4\), but manufacturers 
producing or assembling fewer than 5,000 vehicles annually for sale in 
the United States had a different

[[Page 64880]]

schedule (see S9.1.3(a)(1) and S7.2.4(a)(1)). These manufacturers were 
excluded from the phase-in of the pole test requirements but are 
required to certify the compliance of vehicles manufactured on or after 
September 1, 2014. For convertibles, the pole test applies to vehicles 
manufactured on or after September 1, 2015 (S9.1.3(d)(1)). The enhanced 
MDB test requirement has the same phase-in schedule and compliance 
dates as the pole test (see MDB requirements, S7.2.1, S7.2.4(a), and 
S7.2.4(a)(3)).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ References in this paragraph are to sections in FMVSS No. 
214.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With regard to the phase-in, Aston Martin manufactures 
approximately 4,000 Aston Martin brand vehicles per year worldwide. 
Thus, the requirements that are the subject of the petition are FMVSS 
No. 214's pole and enhanced MDB requirements applying to the 
petitioner's sedans (coupes) manufactured on or after September 1, 
2014, and to its convertibles manufactured on or after September 1, 
2015.

c. Overview of Petition \5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ Aston Martin originally submitted a petition in July 2013, 
and then resubmitted its petition in November 2013. A copy of the 
November 6, 2013 petition is in the docket for this document. To 
view the petition, go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter Docket 
Number NHTSA-2014-0032. A summary is also provided in NHTSA's notice 
of receipt of the petition, 79 FR 17231, infra.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113 and the procedures in 49 CFR 
Part 555, Aston Martin petitioned NHTSA requesting a temporary 
exemption from the pole test requirements and enhanced MDB test of 
FMVSS No. 214. The basis for the application is that compliance would 
cause Aston Martin substantial economic hardship and that the 
petitioner has tried in good faith to comply with the standard.
    Aston Martin has asked for a temporary exemption for two of its 
four vehicle models, the DB9 and Vantage. At the time NHTSA issued the 
pole test and enhanced MDB test requirements in 2007, Aston Martin was 
planning a new generation of the DB9 and Vantage models. Aston Martin's 
plan was to: (a) Replace the DB9 and Vantage models with new generation 
models that would meet the new requirements by the 2014 compliance 
date; and (b) apply its resources toward redesigning two other models 
(the Vanquish and Rapide S), that were not scheduled for replacement 
before 2014, to achieve compliance with the requirements by 2014.
    However, ``because of little market recovery since 2009,'' \6\ 
Aston Martin's sales volumes have not been sufficient to fund the first 
part of the original plan, and the DB9 and Vantage models ``now have to 
remain in production slightly longer than anticipated.'' \7\ The 
petitioner states that due to funding constraints, Aston Martin could 
not initiate the start of FMVSS No. 214 compliance programs on the next 
generation DB9 and Vantage vehicles until April 2013, when the company 
received funds from an investor that could be used to deliver the next 
generation of vehicles. The petitioner states: ``This capital increase 
did not include monies for FMVSS 214 compliance for DB9 & Vantage car 
lines as the next generation of models were originally planned to be 
launched in August 2014.'' \8\ Aston Martin states it needs the 
exemption to continue production of the DB9 and Vantage for the U.S. 
market until the replacement generation vehicles are ready.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 18.
    \7\ Id., p. 11.
    \8\ Id., exhibit 6, p. 2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Aston Martin requested that approximately 670 vehicles be covered 
by the exemption. Aston Martin believes that the cost of meeting the 
pole and enhanced MDB requirements for these vehicles ``would be cost 
prohibitive given that these models will cease USA production in the 
near term and the cost of amortization over the approximately 670 cars 
at issue would be economically infeasible.'' \9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ The petitioner has provided engineering and financial 
information demonstrating how compliance or failure to obtain an 
exemption would cause substantial economic hardship; a description 
of its efforts to comply with the standards; why it believes 
granting the petition is in the public interest; a discussion of 
alternate means of compliance considered; a description of the steps 
it will take while the exemption is in effect and the estimated date 
by which full compliance will be achieved. The petitioner provided 
confidential production figures in support of its claims.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petition requests an exemption for the following periods:
     DB9 coupe model production from September 1, 2014 until 
August 31, 2016;
     DB9 convertible model production from September 1, 2015 
until August 31, 2016;
     Vantage coupe model production from September 1, 2014 
until August 31, 2017; and,
     Vantage convertible model production from September 1, 
2015 until August 31, 2017.
Petitioner's Assertion That Granting the Petition Is in the Public 
Interest
    Aston Martin asserts that the requested exemption is consistent 
with the public interest for the following reasons.
    1. Aston Martin states that it knows of no deaths or serious 
injuries that were associated with side impact events or related to the 
current FMVSS No. 214 protection system in current DB9 and Vantage 
models. Further, the petitioner also states that \10\--
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ The petitioner provided the values recorded by the test 
dummy in the crash test.

the pole tests that Aston Martin has performed on a DB9 test car did 
in fact pass the minimum pole test requirements in FMVSS 214. 
However, Aston Martin cannot self-certify compliance on the basis of 
a single test with the margin of pass obtained in that test. . . . 
Nonetheless the pass does indicate that the risk to the public in 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
the existent car would not be contrary to the public interest.

    2. Denial would force removal of a vehicle currently sold in the 
U.S.
    3. The number of vehicles to be sold in the U.S. during the 
exemption period is very low and the number of annual miles driven in 
Aston Martin vehicles is very low (on average 2,617 miles).\11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ The petitioner refers to a 2006 decision by NHTSA to grant 
a request for a temporary exemption from Ferrari (71 FR 29389) 
(``Ferrari grant''), in which NHTSA noted that the low number of 
vehicles affected by the exemption (less than 2,000) and the low 
number of annual miles driven in the vehicles were factors 
supporting a finding that the exemption will have a negligible 
impact on motor vehicle safety.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    4. Granting the exemption would protect consumer choice.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ On this point, the petitioner cites the 2006 Ferrari grant 
and includes the following statement from NHTSA: ``As discussed in 
previous decisions on temporary exemption applications, the agency 
believes that the public interest is served by affording consumers a 
wider variety of motor vehicle choices.'' (71 FR at 29390.)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    5. The current DB9 and Vantage models comply with all FMVSSs other 
than the requirements of FMVSS No. 214 that are the subject of the 
petition, and meet the requirements of the upgraded roof crush 
resistance standard (FMVSS No. 216) ahead of the September 1, 2015 
compliance date for the vehicles (final rule upgrading FMVSS No. 216, 
74 FR 22348, May 12, 2009).
    6. Aston Martin refers to a decision by NHTSA to grant a Lotus 
request for a temporary exemption from FMVSS No 208 and states that the 
agency made clear that a limited exemption is considered to be far more 
in the public interest compared to a broad waiver. Aston Martin states: 
``The request here is precisely so limited.'' \13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 12. The 
petitioner did not provide a citation for ``the recent Lotus 
decision'' but we assume the reference is to NHTSA's document at 78 
FR 15114, March 8, 2013, infra.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    7. The denial of the exemption request would have a negative effect 
on U.S. employment.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Aston Martin references the Ferrari grant, in which NHTSA 
stated (71 FR at 29390): ``We note that Ferrari is a well-
established company with a small but not insignificant U.S. presence 
and we believe that an 85 percent sales reduction would negatively 
affect U.S. employment. Specifically, reduction in sales would 
likely affect employment not only at Ferrari North America, but also 
at Ferrari dealers, repair specialists, and several small service 
providers that transport Ferrari vehicles from the port of entry to 
the rest of the United States. Traditionally, the agency has 
concluded that the public interest is served in affording continued 
employment to the petitioner's U.S. work force.''

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[[Page 64881]]

II. Notice of Receipt and Summary of Comments

    On March 27, 2014, NHTSA published in the Federal Register (79 FR 
17231; Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0032) a notice of receipt of Aston 
Martin's petition for a temporary exemption, and provided an 
opportunity for public comment. NHTSA received no comments opposing the 
petition.
    Over 40 comments were received supporting the petition.\15\ These 
comments were from the Aston Martin dealers in the U.S., many of their 
employees, and some Aston Martin owners. Each of the dealers emphasized 
strong concerns about the negative impact that elimination of the DB9 
and Vantage models would have on their dealerships,\16\ as the dealers 
would be restricted in their product range and would only be able to 
sell Vanquish and Rapide S, which, the commenters asserted, would 
impact their ability to maintain a financially viable operation. All of 
the dealers expressed alarm about the impact that a denial of the 
petition would have on all tiers of employment \17\ at their place of 
business and in their community.\18\ All of the dealers emphasized that 
jobs would be lost at their dealership if the DB9 and Vantage models 
could not be sold. Employees who commented expressed worry about their 
jobs if the petition were denied. Many dealers expressed concern about 
the effect of a denial on present and future customer support,\19\ as 
the ``Thinning of our network could expose customers to complete loss 
of ownership support--ex. loss of the Seattle store would place next 
closest store in [San Francisco] area 850 miles away.'' \20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ In this section, we refer to comments by their entry number 
in Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0032.
    \16\ See, e.g., comment 0028.
    \17\ See, e.g., comments 0020 and 0032.
    \18\ Comment 0028.
    \19\ Comment 0048.
    \20\ Comment 0003.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Aston Martin Washington DC dealer principal James R. Walker states 
in his comment \21\ that currently, Aston Martin dealers are ``barely 
profitable'' and that franchise composition is fragile. Mr. Walker 
believes that the loss of sales of the DB9 and Vantage could very 
likely result in some dealers deciding to ``shutter the franchise,'' 
which would result in a significant impact on employment. The commenter 
estimates that if dealers decide to ``shutter'' franchises, 230 Aston 
Martin employees in the U.S. would face the loss of their jobs, along 
with a ``substantial number'' of another 300 jobs that are in part 
supported by Aston Martin.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Agency Decision

a. Pole Test Requirement
    NHTSA is granting Aston Martin's request for a temporary exemption 
from FMVSS No. 214's new pole test requirements.
    The granting of hardship exemptions from FMVSSs is conditioned on 
the agency's finding that the petitioning manufacturer has ``tried to 
comply with the standard in good faith.'' \22\ A petitioning 
manufacturer's effort to comply with the standard from which exemption 
is sought is thus extremely important to NHTSA when considering a 
hardship exemption.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ 49 U.S.C. 30113(b)(3)(B)(i).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On March 8, 2013, NHTSA granted a temporary exemption petition 
request from Group Lotus plc (Lotus) regarding an advanced air bag 
requirement \23\ of FMVSS No. 208, ``Occupant crash protection.'' While 
NHTSA granted the petition, the agency did so while emphasizing an 
evolved agency view of such petitions.\24\ The advanced air bag 
requirement had engendered a number of hardship petitions from small 
volume manufacturers, which typically were granted when the 
manufacturer had supplied standard air bags instead of advanced air 
bags. However, as time went on and the years passed following adoption 
of the advanced air bag requirements, NHTSA decided it was not in the 
public interest to continue to grant exemptions from the requirements 
``under the same terms as in the past.'' \25\ NHTSA stated in the Lotus 
notice (78 FR at 15115)--
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ In 2000, NHTSA published a final rule that upgraded FMVSS 
No. 208's requirements for air bags in passenger cars and light 
trucks, requiring what are commonly known as ``advanced air bags.'' 
See final rule at 65 FR 30680, May 12, 2000.
    \24\ 78 FR 15114.
    \25\ 78 FR at 15115, col. 2. See also denial of petition of 
Pagani Automobili SpA, 76 FR 47641, August 5, 2011.

    In deciding whether to grant an exemption based on substantial 
economic hardship and good faith efforts, NHTSA considers the steps 
that the manufacturer has already taken to achieve compliance, as 
well as the future steps the manufacturer plans to take during the 
exemption period and the estimated date by which full compliance 
will be achieved.\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \26\ 49 CFR 555.6(a)(2). [Footnote in text.]

    That announcement was made in the context of the advanced air bag 
hardship petitions relating to the May 2000 final rule. The majority of 
the petitions then before the agency were petitions for extension of 
previously granted exemptions. The advanced air bag exemption requests 
contrast somewhat with Aston Martin's request for an exemption from the 
FMVSS No. 214 pole test requirement, since the latter is a new 
requirement adopted in 2007. Nonetheless, the announcement in the Lotus 
notice signaled that the agency has sharpened its focus on the effort 
that manufacturers make to achieve compliance when claiming financial 
hardship in meeting a standard.
    With that background in mind, NHTSA has analyzed Aston Martin's 
petition and the effort that the petitioner made to meet the pole test 
requirement. NHTSA believes that the petitioner has tried to comply 
with the pole test requirement in good faith.
    The FMVSS No. 214 pole test requires vehicle manufacturers to 
provide head and improved chest protection in side crashes. 
Manufacturers currently meet the pole test requirement by way of side 
air bag technology. Installing a side air bag in a vehicle that does 
not have a side air bag is an intensive endeavor involving extensive 
redesign of the vehicle's side structure and seating system, and 
includes installation of side impact sensors that sense when to deploy 
the side air bag and sensors that monitor side air bag readiness. In 
short, installation of side air bags involves a significant investment 
of effort, planning, resources, and vehicle redesign.
    In 2006, Aston Martin began installing side air bags in the DB9 and 
Vantage model vehicles. Side air bags were considered advanced 
technology at the time and were generally not needed to meet the FMVSSs 
that had applied to passenger vehicles. Yet, motor vehicle 
manufacturers began incorporating side air bag technology in response 
to NHTSA's call for action to improve vehicle compatibility in vehicle-
to-vehicle crashes of higher-riding light trucks and vans (LTVs) with 
passenger cars.\27\ The voluntary installation of side

[[Page 64882]]

impact air bags by vehicle manufacturers prior to a Federal mandate was 
considered by NHTSA to be a laudable industry initiative to meet the 
goal of saving lives ``sooner than through the traditional regulatory 
approach.'' \28\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \27\ See notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the FMVSS No. 
214 pole test, 69 FR 27990, 27995; May 17, 2004. NHTSA's call for 
action resulted in a ``voluntary industry commitment'' by vehicle 
manufacturers in 2003 to enhance occupant protection in side crashes 
of LTVs into passenger cars by accelerating the installation of side 
impact air bags.
    \28\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Aston Martin's installation of side air bags in the DB9 and Vantage 
model vehicles involved a significant investment of work and resources 
on the part of the petitioner. We conclude that the petitioner's 
installation of the safety countermeasures 8 years ahead of the 
September 1, 2014 effective date of the final rule is evidence of a 
good faith effort to meet the pole test requirement. In 2011, the 
manufacturer crash tested a DB9 coupe in an FMVSS No. 214 pole test and 
found that that the performance was not with a margin sufficient to 
enable Aston Martin to certify compliance with the pole test. Yet, data 
from the test show that ES-2re dummy readings were actually below the 
performance threshold of FMVSS No. 214. The ``passing'' values obtained 
from the test are further evidence of the petitioner's good faith 
effort to meet the pole test requirement.
    We note that the petitioner has asked for a 3-year exemption for 
just one of the models (Vantage Coupe) and only a 1- to 2-year 
exemption for the other 3 models covered by the petition. These short 
periods indicate that the petitioner is expeditiously working toward 
producing fully compliant next generation DB9 and Vantage vehicles and 
that the exemption requested is just for a relatively short term. In 
addition, Aston Martin indicates that it is engineering the next 
generation DB9 replacement coupe to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 
226, Ejection Mitigation, a year earlier than required by that 
standard.\29\ These factors are positive indicators of the effort Aston 
Martin plans to make during the exemption period to produce newly 
designed and fully compliant DB9 and Vantage models.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \29\ Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 11.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After considering Aston Martin's early installation of side air 
bags, the performance of the current side air bags and petitioner's 
progress toward producing the next generation DB9 and Vantage models, 
we believe that Aston Martin has tried to comply with the pole test 
requirement in good faith. Granting the petition on the pole test 
provides Aston Martin additional time to build on its efforts and 
achieve greater margins in passing the pole test, which the petitioner 
believes it needs to fully certify the vehicles to FMVSS No. 214.
    A grant is consistent with the Safety Act. NHTSA searched the 
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive 
Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS) data for years 
2000 to the present. The FARS and NASS-CDS databases do not contain any 
instance in which Aston Martin vehicles were involved in side crashes 
resulting in injury or fatality. This information, and the fact that 
the DB9 and Vantage vehicles already have side impact air bags, support 
our finding that an exemption will have a negligible impact on motor 
vehicle safety.
    Several factors support a finding that granting Aston Martin's 
exemption regarding the pole test is in the public interest. The number 
of vehicles at issue is 670. Further, we agree with Aston Martin that 
the relatively low number of miles driven by the vehicle because of its 
nature as a second vehicle will mean that the vehicle is less likely to 
be involved in a crash than a vehicle that is the primary means of 
transportation.
    Further, denial of the request would remove a vehicle that is 
currently being sold in the U.S. market. Given that the DB9 and Vantage 
models comprise two of the four models produced by Aston Martin, the 
withdrawal of the models from the market would appreciably reduce Aston 
Martin's presence in the U.S. for a significant period.\30\ Denial of 
the petition would create hardship for U.S. workers. NHTSA has given 
due consideration to the comments in the docket from affected Aston 
Martin dealers and their employees. A grant will avoid the possibility 
of job losses and other negative consequences at U.S. dealerships, such 
as possible closure of some servicing facilities which could negatively 
affect the ability of customers to service, maintain, and fix any 
problems with their vehicles in a timely manner.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \30\ NHTSA has traditionally found that the public interest is 
served by affording consumers the choice of a wider variety of motor 
vehicles.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We also conclude that Aston Martin demonstrated the requisite 
potential financial hardship. The petitioner has had a cumulative net 
loss position over the past several years. Denial of the petition would 
require Aston Martin to expend a large amount of capital to modify the 
DB9 and Vantage right before the model year change or would force the 
petitioner to cease sales of the vehicles in the U.S. Either outcome 
would cause substantial economic hardship to the petitioner.
    After considering all of the relevant information, we have decided 
to grant Aston Martin a temporary exemption from the pole test of FMVSS 
No. 214 for the periods designated at the beginning of this document in 
the DATES section. However, the total number of vehicles that may be 
produced under this exemption is limited to 670.
    We note that, as explained below, prospective purchasers of the 
exempted vehicles will be notified that the vehicles are exempted from 
the pole test of FMVSS No. 214. Under 49 CFR 555.9(b), a manufacturer 
of an exempted passenger car must securely affix to the windshield or 
side window of each exempted vehicle a label containing a statement 
that the vehicle conforms to all applicable FMVSSs in effect on the 
date of manufacture ``except for Standard Nos. [listing the standards 
by number and title for which an exemption has been granted] exempted 
pursuant to NHTSA Exemption No. _____--.'' This label notifies 
prospective purchasers about the exemption and its subject. Under Sec.  
555.9(c), this information must also be included on the vehicle's 
certification label.
    The text of Sec.  555.9 does not expressly indicate how the 
required statement on the two labels should read in situations in which 
an exemption covers part, but not all, of a FMVSS. In this case, we 
believe that a statement that the vehicle has been exempted from 
Standard No. 214 generally, without an indication that the exemption is 
limited to the pole test provision, could be misleading. A consumer 
might incorrectly believe that the vehicle has been exempted from all 
of FMVSS No. 214's requirements. For this reason, we believe the two 
labels should read in relevant part, ``except for the pole test of 
Standard No. 214, Side Impact Protection, exempted pursuant to * * *.''
    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113(b)(3)(B)(i), Aston Martin is 
granted NHTSA Temporary Exemption No. EX 14-01, from the pole test 
requirement of 49 CFR 571.214 for the DB9 and Vantage models. The 
exemption is for no more than 670 vehicles and it shall remain 
effective for the periods designated at the beginning of this document 
in the DATES section.
b. MDB Requirement
    Aston Martin also requested an exemption for the DB9 and Vantage 
vehicles from FMVSS No. 214's amended MDB test requirement. The basis 
for the request appears to be to

[[Page 64883]]

allow the petitioner to avoid having \31\--
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    \31\ See Aston Martin petition for temporary exemption, p. 5.

to test pole-exempted models for new MDB compliance--and possibly 
have to reengineer to achieve satisfactory results. Then, before the 
pole test exemption ended, Aston Martin would have to retest and 
reengineer these pole-exempted models for A SECOND TIME, in order to 
achieve both new MDB and Pole test compliance. NHTSA clearly sought 
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to allow lead time to avoid this double burden. [Emphasis in text.]

    The agency is denying Aston Martin's request to be exempted from 
the MDB requirement. We conclude that an exemption is not necessary on 
the basis of the information before it. Aston Martin submitted FMVSS 
No. 214 MDB test data \32\ of a DB9 Volante convertible, Vantage coupe, 
and Vantage Roadster convertible tested with the mid-size adult male 
side impact dummy (SID) that FMVSS No. 214 had specified for use in the 
MDB test prior to the ES-2re. The data show that the vehicles appear to 
have passed the performance thresholds of FMVSS No. 214's MDB test by a 
wide margin with the SID.
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    \32\ Accorded confidential treatment by NHTSA.
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    In the final rule adopting the new MDB requirements into FMVSS No. 
214 (requirements which use the ES-2re), NHTSA set forth findings 
indicating that manufacturers would likely not need to modify vehicles 
to meet the new MBD requirements when using the ES-2re in place of the 
SID.\33\ Moreover, data indicate that vehicles that pass the MDB 
requirement using the SID will likely pass the MDB test using the ES-
2re. The DB9 and Vantage models have easily passed the MDB test using 
the SID. Thus, we believe that data indicate the DB9 and Vantage models 
will pass the MDB test with the ES-2re and do not need a temporary 
exemption from the new MDB requirement. Accordingly, NHTSA is denying 
petitioner's request for an exemption from the new MDB requirement due 
to an absence of information showing such an exemption is needed.
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    \33\ NHTSA believed that vehicle modifications would likely 
result from adding the SID-IIs 5th percentile adult female dummy to 
the rear seat of the MDB test. See 72 FR at 51947. The SID-IIs is 
not used in tests of Aston Martin vehicles because the vehicles do 
not have a rear seat or one large enough to accommodate the SID-IIs.

     Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30113; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 
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1.95.

    Dated: October 22, 2014.
David J. Friedman,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-25892 Filed 10-30-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P