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General Motors, LLC, Receipt of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Saab 94x

General Motors, LLC, Receipt of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Claude H. Harris
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
August 9, 2012


[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 154 (Thursday, August 9, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 47697-47699]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-19575]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2012-0006; Notice 1]


General Motors, LLC, Receipt of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Receipt of Petition.

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SUMMARY: General Motors, LLC (GM) \1\ has determined that certain model 
year 2012; Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Saab 9-4x 
multipurpose passenger vehicles, and Chevrolet Cruze passenger cars, do 
not fully comply with paragraph S19.2.2 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety 
Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection. GM has filed an 
appropriate report dated September 6, 2011, pursuant to 49 CFR part 
573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility and Reports.
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    \1\ General Motors, LLC, is a manufacturer of motor vehicles and 
is registered under the laws of the state of Michigan.
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    Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) (see implementing rule 
at 49 CFR part 556), GM submitted a petition for an exemption from the 
notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 on the 
basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle 
safety.
    This notice of receipt of GM's petition is published under 49 
U.S.C. 30118 and 30120 and does not represent any agency decision or 
other exercise of judgment concerning the merits of the petition.
    Vehicles involved: approximately 3,599 Cadillac SRX, 11,459 
Chevrolet Equinox, 5,080 GMC Terrain and 24 Saab 9-4x multipurpose 
passenger vehicles; and 27,392 Chevrolet Cruze passenger cars. All of 
the vehicles are model year 2012 and were manufactured within the 
period from April 6, 2011 through August 20, 2011.
    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, these provisions 
only apply to the subject 47,554 \2\ model year vehicles that GM no 
longer controlled at the time it determined that the noncompliance 
existed.
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    \2\ GM's petition, which was filed under 49 CFR part 556, 
requests an agency decision to exempt GM as a motor vehicles 
manufacturer from the notification and recall responsibilities of 49 
CFR part 573 for the 47,554 affected vehicles. However, a decision 
on this petition cannot relieve vehicle distributors and dealers of 
the prohibitions on the sale, offer for sale, introduction or 
delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of the 
noncompliant vehicles under their control after GM notified them 
that the subject noncompliance existed.
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    Noncompliance: GM explains that the noncompliance is that on rare 
occasions, the air bag suppression telltale on the subject vehicles may 
remain illuminated during a particular ignition cycle and indicate that 
the passenger air bag is OFF regardless of whether the air bag is or is 
not suppressed.
    GM further explains that for this noncompliance condition to exist, 
the following must occur:
    (1) The engine must be restarted within approximately 24 seconds of 
having been turned OFF;
    (2) The key \3\ must be turned rapidly, spending less than 10 
milliseconds (0.01 seconds) in the RUN position before it reaches the 
START position; and
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    \3\ Cadillac SRX and Saab 9-4X vehicles have a push button 
start/stop switch.
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    (3) The crank power mode (approximately how long the starter motor 
runs) must be less than 1.2 seconds. GM's data predicts that the 
conditions for a noncompliance to occur will happen, on average, 
approximately once every 18 months, independent of whether the front 
seat is occupied or not.
    Rule text: Paragraph S19 of FMVSS No. 208 requires in pertinent 
part:

    S19 Requirements to provide protection for infants in rear 
facing and convertible child restraints and car beds.

    S19.1 Each vehicle certified as complying with S14 shall, at the 
option of the manufacturer, meet the requirements specified in S19.2 
or S19.3, under the test procedures specified in S20.
    S19.2 Option 1--Automatic suppression feature. Each vehicle 
shall meet the requirements specified in S19.2.1 through S19.2.3. * 
* *
    S19.2.2 The vehicle shall be equipped with at least one telltale 
which emits light whenever the passenger air bag system is 
deactivated and does not emit light whenever the passenger air bag 
system is activated, except that the telltale(s) need not illuminate 
when the passenger seat is unoccupied. Each telltale: * * *
    (h) The telltale must not emit light except when the passenger 
air bag is turned off or during a bulb check upon vehicle starting.

Summary of GM's Analysis and Arguments

    GM stated its belief that this noncompliance is inconsequential to 
motor vehicle safety for the following reasons:
    A. The noncompliance does not increase the risk to motor vehicle 
safety because it has no effect on occupant restraint. The noncompliant 
condition has absolutely no effect on the proper operation of the 
occupant classification system. If the telltale error occurs when

[[Page 47698]]

an occupant or a Child Restraint System (CRS) is in the front passenger 
seat, the occupant classification system will operate as designed, and 
will enable or disable the air bag, as intended, and continue to meet 
the requirements of FMVSS No. 208 in all other regards. As a result, 
all occupants will continue to receive the benefit of the air bag when 
they otherwise would, regardless of whether or not the telltale is 
operating properly during a particular ignition cycle.
    B. The noncompliance condition is an extremely remote event. The 
noncompliance condition will not occur unless the engine is shut off 
and restarted within about 24 seconds. Even then, the condition will 
not occur unless the ignition key spends less than a hundredth of a 
second in the RUN position before reaching the START position, and the 
crank power mode lasts less than 1.2 seconds. These are very 
prescribed, unusual conditions. GM discovered the condition during an 
assembly plant end of line audit when it was noted that the telltale 
illuminated OFF when an adult passenger was present. GM is not aware of 
any reports in the field about the condition.
    When this condition occurs, it sets a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) 
that is stored in history in the sensing diagnostic module for 100 
ignition cycles. GM reviewed its test fleet experience for the subject 
vehicles, and determined that the conditions needed to produce the 
telltale error will occur on average once every 535 days, or 
approximately, once every 18 months regardless of whether the front 
passenger seat is occupied or not.
    C. Even if the air bag was enabled when the telltale indicated it 
was disabled, that would be extremely unlikely to increase the risk to 
motor vehicle safety. A potential safety risk could exist if the 
telltale indicated the air bag was OFF when the air bag was actually ON 
and a small child or CRS was placed in the front passenger seat. As 
explained in more detail below, this is extremely unlikely to occur in 
the present case. Parents and caregivers are warned to properly 
restrain small children and CRSs in the rear seat, and field data shows 
small children and CRSs are generally not placed in the front seat. In 
addition, GM has conducted significant testing to help assure that the 
air bag suppression system will properly disable the air bag system for 
small children and CRSs, as designed.
    1. Children and CRSs generally are not placed in the front seat. It 
is very unlikely that a small child or a CRS would be placed in the 
front seat since parents and caregivers are routinely advised by NHTSA, 
pediatricians, child safety advocacy groups, and public service 
messages to properly restrain them in the rear seat. As NHTSA states in 
its Child Safety Recommendations for All Ages, ``All children under 13 
should ride in the back seat.''
    In addition, the label on the vehicle's sun visor warns against 
placing a rear facing infant seat in the front passenger seat, and the 
owner's manual warns against placing children in the front seat, as 
well, even for vehicles equipped with a passenger sensing system.
    Publicly available data confirms that parents and caregivers 
generally do not place small children in the front passenger seat. 
According to GM's calculations using National Accident Sampling System 
(NASS) data, six month old, three year old and six year old children 
collectively are likely to occupy the front passenger seat during less 
than one half of one percent of all trips. This fact, together with the 
infrequency with which the noncompliance condition occurs, makes it 
extremely unlikely that a child or CRS would be placed in the front 
seat when the conditions needed to produce the telltale error occur.
    2. Even if a small child or CRS was in the front seat. GM has 
conducted extensive testing to help assure that the air bag suppression 
system will properly characterize these occupants, so that the air bag 
will be suppressed, as designed. GM has had significant field 
experience with suppression systems of the type used in the subject 
vehicles. GM has used pattern recognition based suppression systems 
since 2005 and capacitance based suppression systems since 2009.
    GM has conducted over 15,000 tests of the suppression systems in 
the subject vehicles, based on FMVSS 208 as well as GM's own internal 
requirements, to judge performance for properly positioned as well as 
out of position occupants and CRSs. In each of the over 10,000 tests 
involving the systems in the Cruze, Equinox, Terrain and Saab 9-4X 
vehicles, the suppression system properly characterized the occupant or 
CRS and enabled or disabled the air bag system, as appropriate. The 
same is true in the vast majority of SRX tests.
    In over 5,000 of GM's SRX tests, the air bag system was enabled or 
disabled as desired. In just four of GM's internal (non-FMVSS) SRX 
tests involving three year old dummies in a particular forward facing 
CRSs, the suppression system enabled the air bag. In each of these 
tests, the CRS was installed over a 1O mm thick blanket.
    These tests have no significant bearing on the present risk 
analysis, since more than 98 percent of the tests involving a three 
year old dummy in a forward-facing CRS classified correctly, and in 
each of the discrepant tests, the CRS would classify correctly when 
installed without the blanket.
    There was not a single discrepancy in the over 10,000 tests 
involving the Cruze, Equinox, Terrain and Saab 9-4X vehicles, 
representing over 92 percent of the subject vehicle population. In 
addition, in over 99.8 percent of the SRX tests with CRSs or occupants, 
the air bag system was enabled or disabled, as desired, and in the 
remainder of the CRS tests, the air bag system was properly suppressed 
when the CRS was installed according to the CRS manufacturer's 
instructions.
    The very low rate at which the conditions needed to produce the 
telltale error occur, coupled with the very low chance that a small 
child or CRS would be located in the front seat at that time, makes the 
potential for any safety consequence extremely small. That potential is 
reduced even further since it is extremely unlikely that the 
noncompliance condition would occur at that same time that a CRS is 
being installed in the vehicle, for the first time. Anyone who used 
such a restraint, would in all probability, have received numerous AIR 
BAG ON telltale illuminations before and after the infrequent 
noncompliant OFF illumination, and would have moved the CRS to a rear 
seating location or modified the installation accordingly.
    GM concludes by stating that the telltale error at issue in this 
petition does not increase the risk to motor vehicle safety because it 
has no effect on occupant restraint. The air bag classification system 
will continue to characterize the front seat occupants and enable or 
disable the air bag, as designed. In addition, the noncompliance 
condition will rarely occur. For the error to occur at all, the vehicle 
must be restarted--in a very particular manner--within less than half 
of one minute of having been turned off. The conditions needed to 
produce the telltale error are estimated to occur approximately once 
every 18 months. The potential for any consequence to result is further 
reduced by the fact that the front seat is occupied only about a 
quarter of the time, and by small children and CRSs, much more 
infrequently. Parental and caregiver education and information in the 
vehicle owner's manuals and labels warn against placing infants, 
children and CRSs in the front seat, and NASS data bears out that small 
children and

[[Page 47699]]

CRSs are placed in the front less than one percent of the time. More 
importantly, GM has conducted more than 10,000 tests confirming that 
the air bag system in over 93 percent of the subject vehicles will 
properly characterize occupants and CRSs, so that the air bag will or 
will not be suppressed, as appropriate. With respect to the remaining 
vehicles, the air bag system was enabled or disabled, as desired, over 
99.8 percent of the time in GM's testing. Even so, the chance that a 
CRS would be installed in the front seat for the first time, at the 
same time that the noncompliance occurred, would be even more remote. 
GM has additionally informed NHTSA that it has corrected the 
noncompliance so that all future production vehicles will comply with 
FMVSS No. 208.
    In summation, GM believes that the described noncompliance of its 
vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that its 
petition, to exempt from providing recall notification of noncompliance 
as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the recall noncompliance 
as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.

Comments

    Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and 
arguments on this petition. Comments must refer to the docket and 
notice number cited at the beginning of this notice and be submitted by 
any of the following methods:
    a. By mail addressed to: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket 
Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
    b. By hand delivery to: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket 
Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590. The Docket Section is open on 
weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Federal Holidays.
    c. Electronically: by logging onto the Federal Docket Management 
System (FDMS) Web site at http://www.regulations.gov/. Follow the 
online instructions for submitting comments. Comments may also be faxed 
to 1-202-493-2251.
    Comments must be written in the English language, and be no greater 
than 15 pages in length, although there is no limit to the length of 
necessary attachments to the comments. If comments are submitted in 
hard copy form, please ensure that two copies are provided. If you wish 
to receive confirmation that your comments were received, please 
enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard with the comments. Note that 
all comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.
    Documents submitted to a docket may be viewed by anyone at the 
address and times given above. The documents may also be viewed on the 
Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by following the online 
instructions for accessing the dockets. DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement is available for review in the Federal Register published on 
April 11, 2000, (65 FR 19477-78).
    The petition, supporting materials, and all comments received 
before the close of business on the closing date indicated below will 
be filed and will be considered. All comments and supporting materials 
received after the closing date will also be filed and will be 
considered to the extent possible. When the petition is granted or 
denied, notice of the decision will be published in the Federal 
Register pursuant to the authority indicated below.

DATES: Comment Closing Date: September 10, 2012.

    Authority:  (49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 
CFR 1.50 and 501.8)

    Issued on: July 30, 2012.
Claude H. Harris,
Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2012-19575 Filed 8-8-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P



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