Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 4705-4708 [2022-01794]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 19 / Friday, January 28, 2022 / Notices reporting number 3824.99.9397 effective January 27, 2022’’ in lieu thereof. Greta Peisch, General Counsel, Office of the United States Trade Representative. [FR Doc. 2022–01732 Filed 1–27–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3390–F2–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [Docket No. NHTSA–2019–0098; Notice 2] Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Grant of petition. AGENCY: Toyota Motor North America, Inc., (Toyota) has determined that certain model year (MY) 2019 Toyota Tacoma motor vehicles do not fully comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies. Toyota filed a noncompliance report dated September 5, 2019. Toyota subsequently petitioned NHTSA on September 27, 2019, for a decision that the subject noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety. This notice announces the grant of Toyota’s petition. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Chern, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366–0661, jack.chern@ dot.gov. SUMMARY: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 I. Overview Toyota has determined that certain MY 2019 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab motor vehicles do not fully comply with paragraph S4.1 of FMVSS No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies (49 CFR 571.209). Toyota filed a noncompliance report dated September 5, 2019 pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility and Reports. Toyota subsequently petitioned NHTSA on September 27, 2019, for an exemption from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C chapter 301 on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and 49 CFR part 556, Exemption for Inconsequential Defect or Noncompliance. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:03 Jan 27, 2022 Jkt 256001 Notice of receipt of Toyota’s petition was published with a 30-day public comment period, on January 3, 2020, in the Federal Register (85 FR 415). Three comments were received. To view the petition and all supporting documents, log onto the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) website at https://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online search instructions to locate docket number ‘‘NHTSA–2019– 0098.’’ II. Vehicles Involved Approximately 70 MY 2019 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab motor vehicles, manufactured between July 25, 2019, and July 30, 2019, are potentially involved. III. Noncompliance Toyota explains that the noncompliance is that the subject vehicles are missing seat belt labels on the rear center seat belt assemblies and therefore, do not meet the requirements set forth in paragraph S4.1 of FMVSS No. 209. Specifically, the label which is sewn to the rear center seat belt may have been mistakenly removed by a worker while scanning the code on the label. IV. Rule Requirements Paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 includes the requirements relevant to this petition. Each seat belt assembly shall be permanently and legibly marked or labeled with the year of manufacture, model, and name or trademark of manufacturer or distributor, or of importer if manufactured outside the United States. V. Summary of Toyota’s Petition The following views and arguments presented in this section are the views and arguments provided by Toyota. They do not reflect the views of the agency. Toyota described the subject noncompliance and stated its belief that the noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety. Toyota submitted the following views and arguments in support of the petition: 1. The noncompliant seat belt assemblies were properly installed, and due to Toyota’s replacement parts ordering systems, improper replacement seat belt assembly selection and installation would not be likely to occur: Toyota stated that the primary purpose of the seat belt label required by S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 is to identify the seat belt in the event it needs to be replaced. Toyota contends PO 00000 Frm 00154 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4705 that there are other means to identify the seat belt without looking at the label, and these methods are equally effective in identifying the correct seat belt to install in a vehicle in the event a replacement is needed. According to Toyota, all the noncomplying seat belts were installed as original equipment in the subject vehicles and are unique to the Tacoma rear center seat; they cannot be properly installed in any other Tacoma seating positions and are not used on any other Toyota or Lexus models (Service replacement parts are not affected and contain required labels). Toyota also states that manufacturing processes and the unique properties of this center rear belt assembly match the correct rear center seat belt with the rear seat that is tied to a specific VIN. Toyota states this assures that an incorrect seat belt will not be installed in a vehicle during its assembly. If a seat belt replacement is needed, the service parts system would also preclude the purchase and installation of an improper replacement seat belt assembly. Toyota’s petition contends that seat belt assembly service parts are ordered through the Toyota authorized dealership system using the seat belt assembly part number or the VIN and that replacement parts for the subject seat belt assemblies are not distributed through the general automotive aftermarket; they are only sold by Toyota dealers. Toyota also states that the seat belt retractor has a separate label with the supplier part number, which can further help identify the seat belt during replacement. The Toyota petition further states that when a purchaser orders a seat belt replacement part, the installation instruction, usage, and maintenance instructions are included in the service parts packaging and clearly identify that the seat belt is for a Toyota Tacoma and identify the seat belt installation location. According to Toyota, these instructions comply with paragraph S4.1(k) of FMVSS No. 209. Given the purpose of paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 Toyota believes there are alternative methods as noted above that can be used to identify seat belts if they need to be replaced. Therefore, Toyota states that the noncompliant seat belts as installed in the vehicle do not present a safety risk, and the chance of an incorrect seat belt being installed in a vehicle is essentially zero. 2. In the event of a recall the seat belt installed in each vehicle can be identified based on the VIN: Another purpose of the labeling requirement in the standard is to allow for easier identification of a seat belt in E:\FR\FM\28JAN1.SGM 28JAN1 4706 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 19 / Friday, January 28, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 the event a safety recall is initiated. Toyota states that traceability in the Toyota production system ensures the seat belts can be easily identified without the label specified in paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209. Toyota again stated that each seat section and the center rear seat belt has a label with a code which is scanned into the seat supplier’s system and tied to the VIN for traceability. In the event of a safety recall for this part, Toyota believes the VIN is a sufficient means of identifying the potentially affected vehicles. Therefore, Toyota states the absence of the label specified in the standard poses no risk to motor vehicle safety. 3. The seat belt complies with all other requirements of FMVSS No. 209: The noncomplying seat belt assemblies may lack the required marking or labeling, but Toyota states all of the seat belt assemblies meet all other requirements of the standard. According to Toyota, there is no impact to performance, functionality, or occupant safety. 4. Toyota is unaware of any owner complaints, field reports, or allegations of hazardous circumstances concerning missing seat belt labels in the subject vehicles: Toyota has searched its records for reports or other information concerning the rear center seat belts in the subject vehicles. No owner complaints, field reports, or allegations of hazardous circumstances concerning missing seat belt labels were found. 5. Toyota believes NHTSA has granted similar petitions for inconsequential noncompliance: Toyota cited four FMVSS No. 209 petitions for inconsequential noncompliance related to seat belt assemblies: • Chrysler Corporation, 57 FR 45865 (October 5, 1992) • TRW Inc., 58 FR 7171 (February 4, 1993) • Bombardier Motor Corporation of America, 65 FR 60238 (October 10, 2000) • Oreion, 80 FR 5616 (November 21, 2014) VI. Public Comments Three comments were received. One was from Mr. Edward Thomas. The other two were from Toyota. Mr. Thomas stated his belief that Toyota’s petition should be denied for the following reasons: 1. The four petitions that Toyota cites as being similar are not equivalent or substantially similar to Toyota’s case. In only one of the cited cases was the label missing, and that case (Bomardier) VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:03 Jan 27, 2022 Jkt 256001 involved a low speed vehicle which was only sold by that company in the U.S. market. In the cited cases involving Oreion, another low speed vehicle, only the production date was missing from the label. In TRW’s case, about 40 vehicles had labels with model numbers for the front right and front left reversed. Only the Chrysler case involved a substantial number of vehicles, and there, the correct part number appeared on the belt assembly; the only missing information is information that is no longer required by FMVSS 209. 2. In addition to content, S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 requires that the seat belt assembly be permanently marked or labeled. If a label can be mistakenly removed, then it likely did not meet the permanency requirement. 3. Some consideration should be given to the fact that at some point many of subject vehicles will end up in a salvage yard where the belts will be removed and offered for sale. Without the labels, the chances of them being installed in different seating positions and vehicles is increased. 4. The number of vehicles involved were manufactured over a six-day period. A recall to correct the noncompliance should not pose and undue hardship on the world’s largest and wealthiest auto manufacturer. The seat belt assemblies do not need to be replaced, a simple label with the required information could be applied to the retractor housing in order to bring vehicles into compliance. Toyota submitted a comment on June 24, 2020, to offer supplemental reasoning in support of its petition because Toyota filed a separate noncompliance report on May 4, 2020, indicating that certain replacement seat belt assemblies may not have been packaged with an installation instruction sheet or may have been packaged with an incorrect instruction sheet intended for a different seat belt assembly. The aforementioned 70 Tacoma vehicles are also affected by the noncompliance report filed by Toyota on May 4, 2020. Because the label is sewn to the rear center seatbelt and has been removed while scanning the code on the label, NHTSA inquired if ripping the label off would weaken the webbing at the stitch location. Therefore, on December 7, 2020, NHTSA requested Toyota provide additional information about how the label was removed and whether it affects the webbing strength. In response to the agency’s request, Toyota conducted additional testing and analysis to demonstrate that there is no weakening effect on the seat belt stitching after removing the label by PO 00000 Frm 00155 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 tearing. Toyota held an online meeting on December 17, 2020, to show its findings to the agency and subsequently, submitted the supplemental information discussed during the online meeting into the docket on December 21, 2020.1 Toyota concluded in this submission that the pull forces needed to tear the label are much lower than the force needed to affect the seat belt stitching. VII. NHTSA’s Analysis 1. General Principles Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (the ‘‘Safety Act’’) with the express purpose of reducing motor vehicle accidents, deaths, injuries, and property damage. 49 U.S.C. 30101. To this end, the Safety Act empowers the Secretary of Transportation to establish and enforce mandatory FMVSS 49 U.S.C. 30111. The Secretary has delegated this authority to NHTSA. 49 CFR 1.95. NHTSA adopts an FMVSS only after the agency has determined that the performance requirements are objective, practicable, and meet the need for motor vehicle safety. See 49 U.S.C. 30111(a). Thus, there is a general presumption that the failure of a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment to comply with an FMVSS increases the risk to motor vehicle safety beyond the level deemed appropriate by NHTSA through the rulemaking process. To protect the public from such risks, manufacturers whose products fail to comply with an FMVSS are normally required to conduct a safety recall under which they must notify owners, purchasers, and dealers of the noncompliance and provide a free remedy. 49 U.S.C. 30118–30120. However, Congress has recognized that, under some limited circumstances, a noncompliance could be ‘‘inconsequential’’ to motor vehicle safety. It, therefore, established a procedure under which NHTSA may consider whether it is appropriate to exempt a manufacturer from its notification and remedy (i.e., recall) obligations. 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) & 30120(h). The agency’s regulations governing the filing and consideration of petitions for inconsequentiality exemptions are set out at 49 CFR part 556. Under the Safety Act and Part 556, inconsequentiality exemptions may be granted only in response to a petition from a manufacturer, and then only after 1 see Toyota submission of supplemental information to NHTSA–2019–0098; https:// www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-20190098-0005. E:\FR\FM\28JAN1.SGM 28JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 19 / Friday, January 28, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 notice in the Federal Register and an opportunity for interested members of the public to present information, views, and arguments on the petition. In addition to considering public comments, the agency will draw upon its own understanding of safety-related systems and its experience in deciding the merits of a petition. An absence of opposing argument and data from the public does not require NHTSA to grant a manufacturer’s petition. Neither the Safety Act nor Part 556 defines the term ‘‘inconsequential.’’ The agency determines whether a particular noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety based upon the specific facts before it in a particular petition. In some instances, NHTSA has determined that a manufacturer met its burden of demonstrating that a noncompliance is inconsequential to safety. For example, a label intended to provide safety advice to an owner or occupant may have a misspelled word, or it may be printed in the wrong format or the wrong type size. Where a manufacturer has shown that the discrepancy with the safety requirement should not lead to any misunderstanding, NHTSA has granted an inconsequentiality exemption, especially where other sources of correct information are available. See, e.g., General Motors, LLC, Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 92963 (December 20, 2016). The burden of establishing the inconsequentiality of a failure to comply with a performance requirement in a standard—as opposed to a labeling requirement—is more substantial and difficult to meet. Accordingly, the agency has not found many such noncompliances inconsequential.2 Potential performance failures of safetycritical equipment, like seat belts or air bags, are rarely deemed inconsequential. An important issue to consider in determining inconsequentiality is the safety risk to individuals who experience the type of event against which the recall would otherwise protect.3 NHTSA also does not consider 2 Cf. Gen. Motors Corporation; Ruling on Petition for Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 69 FR 19897, 19899 (Apr. 14, 2004) (citing prior cases where noncompliance was expected to be imperceptible, or nearly so, to vehicle occupants or approaching drivers). 3 See Gen. Motors, LLC; Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 78 FR 35355 (June 12, 2013) (finding noncompliance had no effect on occupant safety because it had no effect on the proper operation of the occupant classification system and the correct deployment of an air bag); Osram Sylvania Prods. Inc.; Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 78 FR 46000 (July 30, 2013) VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:03 Jan 27, 2022 Jkt 256001 the absence of complaints or injuries to show that the issue is inconsequential to safety. ‘‘Most importantly, the absence of a complaint does not mean there have not been any safety issues, nor does it mean that there will not be safety issues in the future.’’ 4 ‘‘[T]he fact that in past reported cases good luck and swift reaction have prevented many serious injuries does not mean that good luck will continue to work.’’ 5 Arguments that only a small number of vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment are affected have also not justified granting an inconsequentiality petition.6 Similarly, NHTSA has rejected petitions based on the assertion that only a small percentage of vehicles or items of equipment are likely to actually exhibit a noncompliance. The percentage of potential occupants that could be adversely affected by a noncompliance does not determine the question of inconsequentiality. Rather, the issue to consider is the consequence to an occupant or a consumer who is exposed to the consequence of that noncompliance.7 These considerations are also relevant when considering whether a defect is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 2. Analysis and Response to the Public Comment From Mr. Thomas In response to the public comment from Mr. Thomas,8 (finding occupant using noncompliant light source would not be exposed to significantly greater risk than occupant using similar compliant light source). 4 Morgan 3 Wheeler Limited; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 21663, 21666 (Apr. 12, 2016). 5 United States v. Gen. Motors Corp., 565 F.2d 754, 759 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (finding defect poses an unreasonable risk when it ‘‘results in hazards as potentially dangerous as sudden engine fire, and where there is no dispute that at least some such hazards, in this case fires, can definitely be expected to occur in the future’’). 6 See Mercedes-Benz, U.S.A., L.L.C.; Denial of Application for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 66 FR 38342 (July 23, 2001) (rejecting argument that noncompliance was inconsequential because of the small number of vehicles affected); Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd.; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 41370 (June 24, 2016) (noting that situations involving individuals trapped in motor vehicles—while infrequent—are consequential to safety); Morgan 3 Wheeler Ltd.; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 21663, 21664 (Apr. 12, 2016) (rejecting argument that petition should be granted because the vehicle was produced in very low numbers and likely to be operated on a limited basis). 7 See Gen. Motors Corp.; Ruling on Petition for Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 69 FR 19897, 19900 (Apr. 14, 2004); Cosco Inc.; Denial of Application for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 64 FR 29408, 29409 (June 1, 1999). 8 See Edward Thomas Response to NHTSA–2019– 0098; https://www.regulations.gov/ document?D=NHTSA-2019-0098-0003. PO 00000 Frm 00156 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4707 a. NHTSA agrees with Mr. Thomas that the four petitions that Toyota cites are not equivalent or substantially similar to Toyota’s case. An important consideration in determining inconsequentiality is the safety risk posed to individuals. NHTSA uses the prior petitions cited by the manufacturer as a reference only and does not depend upon the prior petitions for its basis for determining whether to grant or deny an inconsequential petition. The facts of any petition are almost always unique, requiring each petition to be considered on its own merits. In this case, it does not have any impact on the agency’s decision-making process. b. S4.1(j) of FMVSS 209 requires that the seat belt assembly be ‘‘permanently’’ marked or labeled. NHTSA has never defined ‘‘permanently affixed’’ as part of a regulation; but specifically, NHTSA has said that a label is permanent if it cannot be removed without destroying or defacing it and that the label should remain legible for the expected life of the product under normal conditions. Depending on where the label is affixed, various methods of attachment, such as sewing or heat transfer graphics, may meet these criteria.9 Toyota’s marking label is sewn to the rear center seat belt, which may meet the ‘‘permanency’’ criteria. c. Mr. Thomas contended that a possible safety consequence of the noncompliance would occur if the subject vehicles end up in a salvage yard where the belts will be removed and offered for sale, and without the labels, the chances of them being installed in different seating positions and vehicles is increased. According to Toyota, all the noncomplying seat belts were installed as original equipment in the subject vehicles and are unique to the Tacoma rear center seat; they cannot be properly installed in any other Tacoma seating positions and are not used on any other Toyota or Lexus models. Toyota further explained that these seat belt assemblies installed in another seating position or vehicle would not fit properly, meaning that there would be both visual and physical incompatibilities. Such incompatibilities would include color mismatch, slack in the webbing, incorrect webbing length to allow proper functioning, incompatible bracketry, and/or an incorrect installation angle that would prevent the webbing from being retracted from the assembly altogether. In addition, 9 See Interpretation Letter to Mr. Todd Mitchell, 3/19/2001; https://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/ 22512.rbm.html. E:\FR\FM\28JAN1.SGM 28JAN1 4708 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 19 / Friday, January 28, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 service replacement parts are not affected and contain required labels. Therefore, because these seat belt assemblies were configured specifically for installation in the subject vehicles, NHTSA does not find the likelihood that they will be removed from the subject vehicles and installed in other seating position or vehicles to be a safety concern based on the specific facts of this case. d. Mr. Thomas stated that the number of vehicles involved (70 maximum) were manufactured over a six-day period (July 25–30, 2019). A recall to correct the noncompliance should not pose an undue hardship on the world’s largest and wealthiest auto manufacturer. In general, an important consideration in determining inconsequentiality is the safety risk posed to individuals, not the quantity of vehicles affected. Since all the seat belt assemblies meet all other performance requirements of the standard, neither a small nor a big number of affected vehicles will play a decisive factor in the agency’s justification to grant or deny an inconsequentiality petition. Mr. Thomas also stated that the seat belt assemblies do not need to be replaced; a simple label with the required information could be applied to the retractor housing in order to bring the vehicles into compliance. Toyota has stated that the seat belt retractor indeed has a separate label with the supplier part number, which can further help identify the seat belt during replacement. 3. Analysis and Response to the Comments From Toyota Toyota filed a separate noncompliance report on May 4, 2020, indicating that certain replacement seat belt assemblies may not have been packaged with an installation instruction sheet or may have been packaged with an incorrect instruction sheet intended for a different seatbelt assembly. Because of this additional noncompliance report, Toyota submitted a comment on June 24, 2020,10 to offer supplemental reasoning in support of its petition. While some of the replacement assemblies covered by the May 4, 2020, noncompliance report are designed to be installed on the same model/MY Tacoma vehicles as the 70 Tacoma vehicles that are the subject of its September 27, 2019, petition, Toyota stated that it checked the service history and CARFAX reports on all 70 of these Tacoma vehicles and none of them have 10 See Toyota Motor North America—Comments; https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA2019-0098-0004. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:03 Jan 27, 2022 Jkt 256001 replaced the rear center seat belt according to that information. As the replacement seat belt assemblies in Toyota part distribution centers that are affected by the issue described in the May 4, 2020, noncompliance report have been held, and their distribution prevented, it is highly unlikely that any of the aforementioned 70 Tacoma vehicles could be repaired using a replacement assembly affected by this missing or incorrect instruction sheet. Since the replacement seat belt assemblies of the affected 70 Tacoma vehicles have been held and their distribution prevented, NHTSA agrees that any future replacement assembly will not be affected by this missing or incorrect instruction sheet. Because the label is sewn to the rear center seat belt and has been removed while scanning the code on the label, NHTSA requested that Toyota provide additional information on December 7, 2020, about how the label was removed and whether it affects the webbing strength. In response, Toyota submitted another comment on December 21, 2020,11 explaining that they conducted additional testing and analysis to show that there is no visible effect on the seat belt stitching after removing the label by tearing it from where it was stitched. Measured pull forces in Toyota’s testing also indicate that the label tears at a much lower pull force than the force required to tear apart the seat belt stitching. The agency agrees that the removal of the label would not affect the webbing strength at the stitch location. NHTSA also believes that should the seat belts be the subject of a recall, the combination of traceability in the Toyota production system, along with the additional markings on the seat belt assemblies, would ensure that the seat belts can be easily identified without the label specified in paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209. Toyota also stated that each seat section, and the center rear seat belt, has a label with a code which is scanned into the seat supplier’s system and tied to each affected vehicle’s VIN for traceability. In the event of a safety recall for this part, Toyota believes the VIN is a sufficient means of identifying the potentially affected vehicles. Therefore, the agency agrees that, for the facts specific to this petition, the absence of the label specified in the standard poses no risk to motor vehicle safety. 11 See Toyota Comments 12–21–2020; https:// www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-20190098-0005. PO 00000 Frm 00157 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 VIII. NHTSA’s Decision In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA finds that Toyota has met its burden of persuasion that the subject FMVSS No. 209 noncompliance in the affected vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, Toyota’s petition is hereby granted and Toyota is consequently exempted from the obligation of providing notification of, and a free remedy for, that noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 30120. NHTSA notes that the statutory provisions (49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h)) that permit manufacturers to file petitions for a determination of inconsequentiality allow NHTSA to exempt manufacturers only from the duties found in sections 30118 and 30120, respectively, to notify owners, purchasers, and dealers of a defect or noncompliance and to remedy the defect or noncompliance. Therefore, this decision only applies to the subject vehicles that Toyota no longer controlled at the time it determined that the noncompliance existed. However, the granting of this petition does not relieve vehicle distributors and dealers of the prohibitions on the sale, offer for sale, or introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of the noncompliant vehicles under their control after Toyota notified them that the subject noncompliance existed. Finally, NHTSA would like to make clear that granting this petition in no way indicates a judgement by the agency that there is not a safety need for the FMVSS requirement(s) in question. In addition, the granting of the current petition in no way indicates NHTSA’s judgment in any future inconsequential noncompliance petition, regardless of the level of similarity with the current petition request. (Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.95 and 501.8) Otto G. Matheke III, Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance. [FR Doc. 2022–01794 Filed 1–27–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Notice of Final Federal Agency Actions on Proposed Highway Projects in Texas Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Department of Transportation. AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\28JAN1.SGM 28JAN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 19 (Friday, January 28, 2022)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4705-4708]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-01794]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2019-0098; Notice 2]


Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Grant of Petition for Decision 
of Inconsequential Noncompliance

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

ACTION: Grant of petition.

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SUMMARY: Toyota Motor North America, Inc., (Toyota) has determined that 
certain model year (MY) 2019 Toyota Tacoma motor vehicles do not fully 
comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 209, Seat 
Belt Assemblies. Toyota filed a noncompliance report dated September 5, 
2019. Toyota subsequently petitioned NHTSA on September 27, 2019, for a 
decision that the subject noncompliance is inconsequential as it 
relates to motor vehicle safety. This notice announces the grant of 
Toyota's petition.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Chern, Office of Vehicle Safety 
Compliance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
telephone (202) 366-0661, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Overview

    Toyota has determined that certain MY 2019 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 
motor vehicles do not fully comply with paragraph S4.1 of FMVSS No. 
209, Seat Belt Assemblies (49 CFR 571.209). Toyota filed a 
noncompliance report dated September 5, 2019 pursuant to 49 CFR part 
573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility and Reports. Toyota 
subsequently petitioned NHTSA on September 27, 2019, for an exemption 
from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C chapter 301 
on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates 
to motor vehicle safety pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and 
49 CFR part 556, Exemption for Inconsequential Defect or Noncompliance.
    Notice of receipt of Toyota's petition was published with a 30-day 
public comment period, on January 3, 2020, in the Federal Register (85 
FR 415). Three comments were received. To view the petition and all 
supporting documents, log onto the Federal Docket Management System 
(FDMS) website at https://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online 
search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2019-0098.''

II. Vehicles Involved

    Approximately 70 MY 2019 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab motor vehicles, 
manufactured between July 25, 2019, and July 30, 2019, are potentially 
involved.

III. Noncompliance

    Toyota explains that the noncompliance is that the subject vehicles 
are missing seat belt labels on the rear center seat belt assemblies 
and therefore, do not meet the requirements set forth in paragraph S4.1 
of FMVSS No. 209. Specifically, the label which is sewn to the rear 
center seat belt may have been mistakenly removed by a worker while 
scanning the code on the label.

IV. Rule Requirements

    Paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 includes the requirements 
relevant to this petition. Each seat belt assembly shall be permanently 
and legibly marked or labeled with the year of manufacture, model, and 
name or trademark of manufacturer or distributor, or of importer if 
manufactured outside the United States.

V. Summary of Toyota's Petition

    The following views and arguments presented in this section are the 
views and arguments provided by Toyota. They do not reflect the views 
of the agency.
    Toyota described the subject noncompliance and stated its belief 
that the noncompliance is inconsequential as it relates to motor 
vehicle safety.
    Toyota submitted the following views and arguments in support of 
the petition:
    1. The noncompliant seat belt assemblies were properly installed, 
and due to Toyota's replacement parts ordering systems, improper 
replacement seat belt assembly selection and installation would not be 
likely to occur:
    Toyota stated that the primary purpose of the seat belt label 
required by S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 is to identify the seat belt in 
the event it needs to be replaced. Toyota contends that there are other 
means to identify the seat belt without looking at the label, and these 
methods are equally effective in identifying the correct seat belt to 
install in a vehicle in the event a replacement is needed.
    According to Toyota, all the noncomplying seat belts were installed 
as original equipment in the subject vehicles and are unique to the 
Tacoma rear center seat; they cannot be properly installed in any other 
Tacoma seating positions and are not used on any other Toyota or Lexus 
models (Service replacement parts are not affected and contain required 
labels). Toyota also states that manufacturing processes and the unique 
properties of this center rear belt assembly match the correct rear 
center seat belt with the rear seat that is tied to a specific VIN. 
Toyota states this assures that an incorrect seat belt will not be 
installed in a vehicle during its assembly. If a seat belt replacement 
is needed, the service parts system would also preclude the purchase 
and installation of an improper replacement seat belt assembly. 
Toyota's petition contends that seat belt assembly service parts are 
ordered through the Toyota authorized dealership system using the seat 
belt assembly part number or the VIN and that replacement parts for the 
subject seat belt assemblies are not distributed through the general 
automotive aftermarket; they are only sold by Toyota dealers. Toyota 
also states that the seat belt retractor has a separate label with the 
supplier part number, which can further help identify the seat belt 
during replacement.
    The Toyota petition further states that when a purchaser orders a 
seat belt replacement part, the installation instruction, usage, and 
maintenance instructions are included in the service parts packaging 
and clearly identify that the seat belt is for a Toyota Tacoma and 
identify the seat belt installation location. According to Toyota, 
these instructions comply with paragraph S4.1(k) of FMVSS No. 209.
    Given the purpose of paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 Toyota 
believes there are alternative methods as noted above that can be used 
to identify seat belts if they need to be replaced.
    Therefore, Toyota states that the noncompliant seat belts as 
installed in the vehicle do not present a safety risk, and the chance 
of an incorrect seat belt being installed in a vehicle is essentially 
zero.
    2. In the event of a recall the seat belt installed in each vehicle 
can be identified based on the VIN:
    Another purpose of the labeling requirement in the standard is to 
allow for easier identification of a seat belt in

[[Page 4706]]

the event a safety recall is initiated. Toyota states that traceability 
in the Toyota production system ensures the seat belts can be easily 
identified without the label specified in paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS 
No. 209.
    Toyota again stated that each seat section and the center rear seat 
belt has a label with a code which is scanned into the seat supplier's 
system and tied to the VIN for traceability. In the event of a safety 
recall for this part, Toyota believes the VIN is a sufficient means of 
identifying the potentially affected vehicles. Therefore, Toyota states 
the absence of the label specified in the standard poses no risk to 
motor vehicle safety.
    3. The seat belt complies with all other requirements of FMVSS No. 
209:
    The noncomplying seat belt assemblies may lack the required marking 
or labeling, but Toyota states all of the seat belt assemblies meet all 
other requirements of the standard. According to Toyota, there is no 
impact to performance, functionality, or occupant safety.
    4. Toyota is unaware of any owner complaints, field reports, or 
allegations of hazardous circumstances concerning missing seat belt 
labels in the subject vehicles:
    Toyota has searched its records for reports or other information 
concerning the rear center seat belts in the subject vehicles. No owner 
complaints, field reports, or allegations of hazardous circumstances 
concerning missing seat belt labels were found.
    5. Toyota believes NHTSA has granted similar petitions for 
inconsequential noncompliance:
    Toyota cited four FMVSS No. 209 petitions for inconsequential 
noncompliance related to seat belt assemblies:

 Chrysler Corporation, 57 FR 45865 (October 5, 1992)
 TRW Inc., 58 FR 7171 (February 4, 1993)
 Bombardier Motor Corporation of America, 65 FR 60238 (October 
10, 2000)
 Oreion, 80 FR 5616 (November 21, 2014)

VI. Public Comments

    Three comments were received. One was from Mr. Edward Thomas. The 
other two were from Toyota. Mr. Thomas stated his belief that Toyota's 
petition should be denied for the following reasons:
    1. The four petitions that Toyota cites as being similar are not 
equivalent or substantially similar to Toyota's case. In only one of 
the cited cases was the label missing, and that case (Bomardier) 
involved a low speed vehicle which was only sold by that company in the 
U.S. market. In the cited cases involving Oreion, another low speed 
vehicle, only the production date was missing from the label. In TRW's 
case, about 40 vehicles had labels with model numbers for the front 
right and front left reversed. Only the Chrysler case involved a 
substantial number of vehicles, and there, the correct part number 
appeared on the belt assembly; the only missing information is 
information that is no longer required by FMVSS 209.
    2. In addition to content, S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209 requires that 
the seat belt assembly be permanently marked or labeled. If a label can 
be mistakenly removed, then it likely did not meet the permanency 
requirement.
    3. Some consideration should be given to the fact that at some 
point many of subject vehicles will end up in a salvage yard where the 
belts will be removed and offered for sale. Without the labels, the 
chances of them being installed in different seating positions and 
vehicles is increased.
    4. The number of vehicles involved were manufactured over a six-day 
period. A recall to correct the noncompliance should not pose and undue 
hardship on the world's largest and wealthiest auto manufacturer. The 
seat belt assemblies do not need to be replaced, a simple label with 
the required information could be applied to the retractor housing in 
order to bring vehicles into compliance.
    Toyota submitted a comment on June 24, 2020, to offer supplemental 
reasoning in support of its petition because Toyota filed a separate 
noncompliance report on May 4, 2020, indicating that certain 
replacement seat belt assemblies may not have been packaged with an 
installation instruction sheet or may have been packaged with an 
incorrect instruction sheet intended for a different seat belt 
assembly. The aforementioned 70 Tacoma vehicles are also affected by 
the noncompliance report filed by Toyota on May 4, 2020.
    Because the label is sewn to the rear center seatbelt and has been 
removed while scanning the code on the label, NHTSA inquired if ripping 
the label off would weaken the webbing at the stitch location. 
Therefore, on December 7, 2020, NHTSA requested Toyota provide 
additional information about how the label was removed and whether it 
affects the webbing strength. In response to the agency's request, 
Toyota conducted additional testing and analysis to demonstrate that 
there is no weakening effect on the seat belt stitching after removing 
the label by tearing. Toyota held an online meeting on December 17, 
2020, to show its findings to the agency and subsequently, submitted 
the supplemental information discussed during the online meeting into 
the docket on December 21, 2020.\1\ Toyota concluded in this submission 
that the pull forces needed to tear the label are much lower than the 
force needed to affect the seat belt stitching.
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    \1\ see Toyota submission of supplemental information to NHTSA-
2019-0098; https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2019-0098-0005.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

VII. NHTSA's Analysis

1. General Principles

    Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act 
of 1966 (the ``Safety Act'') with the express purpose of reducing motor 
vehicle accidents, deaths, injuries, and property damage. 49 U.S.C. 
30101. To this end, the Safety Act empowers the Secretary of 
Transportation to establish and enforce mandatory FMVSS 49 U.S.C. 
30111. The Secretary has delegated this authority to NHTSA. 49 CFR 
1.95.
    NHTSA adopts an FMVSS only after the agency has determined that the 
performance requirements are objective, practicable, and meet the need 
for motor vehicle safety. See 49 U.S.C. 30111(a). Thus, there is a 
general presumption that the failure of a motor vehicle or item of 
motor vehicle equipment to comply with an FMVSS increases the risk to 
motor vehicle safety beyond the level deemed appropriate by NHTSA 
through the rulemaking process. To protect the public from such risks, 
manufacturers whose products fail to comply with an FMVSS are normally 
required to conduct a safety recall under which they must notify 
owners, purchasers, and dealers of the noncompliance and provide a free 
remedy. 49 U.S.C. 30118-30120. However, Congress has recognized that, 
under some limited circumstances, a noncompliance could be 
``inconsequential'' to motor vehicle safety. It, therefore, established 
a procedure under which NHTSA may consider whether it is appropriate to 
exempt a manufacturer from its notification and remedy (i.e., recall) 
obligations. 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) & 30120(h). The agency's regulations 
governing the filing and consideration of petitions for 
inconsequentiality exemptions are set out at 49 CFR part 556.
    Under the Safety Act and Part 556, inconsequentiality exemptions 
may be granted only in response to a petition from a manufacturer, and 
then only after

[[Page 4707]]

notice in the Federal Register and an opportunity for interested 
members of the public to present information, views, and arguments on 
the petition. In addition to considering public comments, the agency 
will draw upon its own understanding of safety-related systems and its 
experience in deciding the merits of a petition. An absence of opposing 
argument and data from the public does not require NHTSA to grant a 
manufacturer's petition.
    Neither the Safety Act nor Part 556 defines the term 
``inconsequential.'' The agency determines whether a particular 
noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety based upon the 
specific facts before it in a particular petition. In some instances, 
NHTSA has determined that a manufacturer met its burden of 
demonstrating that a noncompliance is inconsequential to safety. For 
example, a label intended to provide safety advice to an owner or 
occupant may have a misspelled word, or it may be printed in the wrong 
format or the wrong type size. Where a manufacturer has shown that the 
discrepancy with the safety requirement should not lead to any 
misunderstanding, NHTSA has granted an inconsequentiality exemption, 
especially where other sources of correct information are available. 
See, e.g., General Motors, LLC, Grant of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 92963 (December 20, 2016).
    The burden of establishing the inconsequentiality of a failure to 
comply with a performance requirement in a standard--as opposed to a 
labeling requirement--is more substantial and difficult to meet. 
Accordingly, the agency has not found many such noncompliances 
inconsequential.\2\ Potential performance failures of safety-critical 
equipment, like seat belts or air bags, are rarely deemed 
inconsequential.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ Cf. Gen. Motors Corporation; Ruling on Petition for 
Determination of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 69 FR 19897, 19899 
(Apr. 14, 2004) (citing prior cases where noncompliance was expected 
to be imperceptible, or nearly so, to vehicle occupants or 
approaching drivers).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    An important issue to consider in determining inconsequentiality is 
the safety risk to individuals who experience the type of event against 
which the recall would otherwise protect.\3\ NHTSA also does not 
consider the absence of complaints or injuries to show that the issue 
is inconsequential to safety. ``Most importantly, the absence of a 
complaint does not mean there have not been any safety issues, nor does 
it mean that there will not be safety issues in the future.'' \4\ 
``[T]he fact that in past reported cases good luck and swift reaction 
have prevented many serious injuries does not mean that good luck will 
continue to work.'' \5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ See Gen. Motors, LLC; Grant of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance, 78 FR 35355 (June 12, 2013) (finding 
noncompliance had no effect on occupant safety because it had no 
effect on the proper operation of the occupant classification system 
and the correct deployment of an air bag); Osram Sylvania Prods. 
Inc.; Grant of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential 
Noncompliance, 78 FR 46000 (July 30, 2013) (finding occupant using 
noncompliant light source would not be exposed to significantly 
greater risk than occupant using similar compliant light source).
    \4\ Morgan 3 Wheeler Limited; Denial of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 21663, 21666 (Apr. 12, 2016).
    \5\ United States v. Gen. Motors Corp., 565 F.2d 754, 759 (D.C. 
Cir. 1977) (finding defect poses an unreasonable risk when it 
``results in hazards as potentially dangerous as sudden engine fire, 
and where there is no dispute that at least some such hazards, in 
this case fires, can definitely be expected to occur in the 
future'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Arguments that only a small number of vehicles or items of motor 
vehicle equipment are affected have also not justified granting an 
inconsequentiality petition.\6\ Similarly, NHTSA has rejected petitions 
based on the assertion that only a small percentage of vehicles or 
items of equipment are likely to actually exhibit a noncompliance. The 
percentage of potential occupants that could be adversely affected by a 
noncompliance does not determine the question of inconsequentiality. 
Rather, the issue to consider is the consequence to an occupant or a 
consumer who is exposed to the consequence of that noncompliance.\7\ 
These considerations are also relevant when considering whether a 
defect is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ See Mercedes-Benz, U.S.A., L.L.C.; Denial of Application for 
Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 66 FR 38342 (July 23, 
2001) (rejecting argument that noncompliance was inconsequential 
because of the small number of vehicles affected); Aston Martin 
Lagonda Ltd.; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential 
Noncompliance, 81 FR 41370 (June 24, 2016) (noting that situations 
involving individuals trapped in motor vehicles--while infrequent--
are consequential to safety); Morgan 3 Wheeler Ltd.; Denial of 
Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 81 FR 21663, 
21664 (Apr. 12, 2016) (rejecting argument that petition should be 
granted because the vehicle was produced in very low numbers and 
likely to be operated on a limited basis).
    \7\ See Gen. Motors Corp.; Ruling on Petition for Determination 
of Inconsequential Noncompliance, 69 FR 19897, 19900 (Apr. 14, 
2004); Cosco Inc.; Denial of Application for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance, 64 FR 29408, 29409 (June 1, 1999).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Analysis and Response to the Public Comment From Mr. Thomas

    In response to the public comment from Mr. Thomas,\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ See Edward Thomas Response to NHTSA-2019-0098; https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2019-0098-0003.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    a. NHTSA agrees with Mr. Thomas that the four petitions that Toyota 
cites are not equivalent or substantially similar to Toyota's case. An 
important consideration in determining inconsequentiality is the safety 
risk posed to individuals. NHTSA uses the prior petitions cited by the 
manufacturer as a reference only and does not depend upon the prior 
petitions for its basis for determining whether to grant or deny an 
inconsequential petition. The facts of any petition are almost always 
unique, requiring each petition to be considered on its own merits. In 
this case, it does not have any impact on the agency's decision-making 
process.
    b. S4.1(j) of FMVSS 209 requires that the seat belt assembly be 
``permanently'' marked or labeled. NHTSA has never defined 
``permanently affixed'' as part of a regulation; but specifically, 
NHTSA has said that a label is permanent if it cannot be removed 
without destroying or defacing it and that the label should remain 
legible for the expected life of the product under normal conditions. 
Depending on where the label is affixed, various methods of attachment, 
such as sewing or heat transfer graphics, may meet these criteria.\9\ 
Toyota's marking label is sewn to the rear center seat belt, which may 
meet the ``permanency'' criteria.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ See Interpretation Letter to Mr. Todd Mitchell, 3/19/2001; 
https://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/22512.rbm.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    c. Mr. Thomas contended that a possible safety consequence of the 
noncompliance would occur if the subject vehicles end up in a salvage 
yard where the belts will be removed and offered for sale, and without 
the labels, the chances of them being installed in different seating 
positions and vehicles is increased. According to Toyota, all the 
noncomplying seat belts were installed as original equipment in the 
subject vehicles and are unique to the Tacoma rear center seat; they 
cannot be properly installed in any other Tacoma seating positions and 
are not used on any other Toyota or Lexus models. Toyota further 
explained that these seat belt assemblies installed in another seating 
position or vehicle would not fit properly, meaning that there would be 
both visual and physical incompatibilities. Such incompatibilities 
would include color mismatch, slack in the webbing, incorrect webbing 
length to allow proper functioning, incompatible bracketry, and/or an 
incorrect installation angle that would prevent the webbing from being 
retracted from the assembly altogether. In addition,

[[Page 4708]]

service replacement parts are not affected and contain required labels. 
Therefore, because these seat belt assemblies were configured 
specifically for installation in the subject vehicles, NHTSA does not 
find the likelihood that they will be removed from the subject vehicles 
and installed in other seating position or vehicles to be a safety 
concern based on the specific facts of this case.
    d. Mr. Thomas stated that the number of vehicles involved (70 
maximum) were manufactured over a six-day period (July 25-30, 2019). A 
recall to correct the noncompliance should not pose an undue hardship 
on the world's largest and wealthiest auto manufacturer. In general, an 
important consideration in determining inconsequentiality is the safety 
risk posed to individuals, not the quantity of vehicles affected. Since 
all the seat belt assemblies meet all other performance requirements of 
the standard, neither a small nor a big number of affected vehicles 
will play a decisive factor in the agency's justification to grant or 
deny an inconsequentiality petition. Mr. Thomas also stated that the 
seat belt assemblies do not need to be replaced; a simple label with 
the required information could be applied to the retractor housing in 
order to bring the vehicles into compliance. Toyota has stated that the 
seat belt retractor indeed has a separate label with the supplier part 
number, which can further help identify the seat belt during 
replacement.

3. Analysis and Response to the Comments From Toyota

    Toyota filed a separate noncompliance report on May 4, 2020, 
indicating that certain replacement seat belt assemblies may not have 
been packaged with an installation instruction sheet or may have been 
packaged with an incorrect instruction sheet intended for a different 
seatbelt assembly. Because of this additional noncompliance report, 
Toyota submitted a comment on June 24, 2020,\10\ to offer supplemental 
reasoning in support of its petition. While some of the replacement 
assemblies covered by the May 4, 2020, noncompliance report are 
designed to be installed on the same model/MY Tacoma vehicles as the 70 
Tacoma vehicles that are the subject of its September 27, 2019, 
petition, Toyota stated that it checked the service history and CARFAX 
reports on all 70 of these Tacoma vehicles and none of them have 
replaced the rear center seat belt according to that information. As 
the replacement seat belt assemblies in Toyota part distribution 
centers that are affected by the issue described in the May 4, 2020, 
noncompliance report have been held, and their distribution prevented, 
it is highly unlikely that any of the aforementioned 70 Tacoma vehicles 
could be repaired using a replacement assembly affected by this missing 
or incorrect instruction sheet. Since the replacement seat belt 
assemblies of the affected 70 Tacoma vehicles have been held and their 
distribution prevented, NHTSA agrees that any future replacement 
assembly will not be affected by this missing or incorrect instruction 
sheet.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ See Toyota Motor North America--Comments; https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2019-0098-0004.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Because the label is sewn to the rear center seat belt and has been 
removed while scanning the code on the label, NHTSA requested that 
Toyota provide additional information on December 7, 2020, about how 
the label was removed and whether it affects the webbing strength. In 
response, Toyota submitted another comment on December 21, 2020,\11\ 
explaining that they conducted additional testing and analysis to show 
that there is no visible effect on the seat belt stitching after 
removing the label by tearing it from where it was stitched. Measured 
pull forces in Toyota's testing also indicate that the label tears at a 
much lower pull force than the force required to tear apart the seat 
belt stitching. The agency agrees that the removal of the label would 
not affect the webbing strength at the stitch location.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ See Toyota Comments 12-21-2020; https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2019-0098-0005.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NHTSA also believes that should the seat belts be the subject of a 
recall, the combination of traceability in the Toyota production 
system, along with the additional markings on the seat belt assemblies, 
would ensure that the seat belts can be easily identified without the 
label specified in paragraph S4.1(j) of FMVSS No. 209.
    Toyota also stated that each seat section, and the center rear seat 
belt, has a label with a code which is scanned into the seat supplier's 
system and tied to each affected vehicle's VIN for traceability. In the 
event of a safety recall for this part, Toyota believes the VIN is a 
sufficient means of identifying the potentially affected vehicles. 
Therefore, the agency agrees that, for the facts specific to this 
petition, the absence of the label specified in the standard poses no 
risk to motor vehicle safety.

VIII. NHTSA's Decision

    In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA finds that Toyota has met 
its burden of persuasion that the subject FMVSS No. 209 noncompliance 
in the affected vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, Toyota's petition is hereby granted and Toyota is 
consequently exempted from the obligation of providing notification of, 
and a free remedy for, that noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 
30120.
    NHTSA notes that the statutory provisions (49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 
30120(h)) that permit manufacturers to file petitions for a 
determination of inconsequentiality allow NHTSA to exempt manufacturers 
only from the duties found in sections 30118 and 30120, respectively, 
to notify owners, purchasers, and dealers of a defect or noncompliance 
and to remedy the defect or noncompliance. Therefore, this decision 
only applies to the subject vehicles that Toyota no longer controlled 
at the time it determined that the noncompliance existed. However, the 
granting of this petition does not relieve vehicle distributors and 
dealers of the prohibitions on the sale, offer for sale, or 
introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of 
the noncompliant vehicles under their control after Toyota notified 
them that the subject noncompliance existed.
    Finally, NHTSA would like to make clear that granting this petition 
in no way indicates a judgement by the agency that there is not a 
safety need for the FMVSS requirement(s) in question. In addition, the 
granting of the current petition in no way indicates NHTSA's judgment 
in any future inconsequential noncompliance petition, regardless of the 
level of similarity with the current petition request.

(Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 49 
CFR 1.95 and 501.8)

Otto G. Matheke III,
Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2022-01794 Filed 1-27-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P