[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 16 (Monday, January 26, 2015)]
[Pages 4035-4036]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-01204]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0028; Notice 2]

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing 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.


SUMMARY: Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., 
on behalf of Toyota Motor Corporation and certain Toyota manufacturing 
entities (collectively referred to as ``Toyota'') have determined that 
specific model year (MY) 2013-2014 Toyota vehicles do not fully comply 
with paragraph S4 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 
302, Flammability of Interior Materials. Toyota has filed an 
appropriate report dated January 29, 2014 as amended on February 20, 
2014 pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance 
Responsibility and Reports.

ADDRESSES: For further information on this decision contact Michael 
Cole, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366-2334, facsimile 
(202) 366-5930.

    I. Toyota's Petition: Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) 
and the rule implementing those provisions at 49 CFR part 556, Toyota 
has petitioned 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.
    Notice of receipt of Toyota's petition was published, with a 30-Day 
public comment period, on March 11, 2014 in the Federal Register (FR 
13733). No comments were received. To view the petition and all 
supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management System 
(FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online 
search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2014-0028.''
    II. Vehicles Involved: Affected are approximately 206,271 MY 2012-
14 Camry, Avalon, Corolla, Sienna, Tundra, and Tacoma model Toyota 
vehicles. Refer to the amended report that Toyota filed pursuant to 49 
CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility and Reports that 
Toyota included as attachment to its petition for identification of the 
associated Toyota manufacturing entities as well as additional details 
about the vehicles involved.
    III. Noncompliance: Toyota explains that the noncompliance is that 
the front and rear seat cushions and front and rear seat backs in the 
subject vehicles fail to fully meet the requirements of paragraph S4 of 
FMVSS No. 302 because seat cushion and seat back components, when 
tested separately, failed to meet the burn rate requirements of 
paragraph S4.3. Toyota identified the noncompliant components as seat 
heater assemblies. Toyota also states that all other components of the 
seat required to meet FMVSS No. 302 are in compliance with the 
    IV. Rule Text: Paragraph S4 of FMVSS No. 302 requires in pertinent 

    S4.1 The portions described in S4.2 of the following components 
of vehicle occupant compartments shall meet the requirements of 
S4.3: seat cushions, seat backs, seat belts, headlining, convertible 
tops, arm rests, all trim panels including door, front, rear, and 
side panels, compartment shelves, head restraints, floor coverings, 
sun visors, curtains, shades, wheel housing covers, engine 
compartment covers, mattress covers, and any other interior 
materials, including padding and crash-deployed elements, that are 
designed to absorb energy on contact by occupants in the event of a 
crash . . .
    S4.2 Any portion of a single or composite material which is 
within 13 mm of the occupant compartment air space shall meet the 
requirements of S4.3.
    S4.2.1 Any material that does not adhere to other material(s) at 
every point of contact shall meet the requirements of S4.3 when 
tested separately . . .
    S4.3 (a) When tested in accordance with S5, material described 
in S4.1 and S4.2 shall not burn, nor transmit a flame front across 
its surface, at a rate of more than 102 mm per minute. The 
requirement concerning transmission of a flame front shall not apply 
to a surface created by cutting a test specimen for purposes of 
testing pursuant to S5.
    (b) If a material stops burning before it has burned for 60 
seconds from the start of timing, and has not burned more than 51 mm 
from the point where the timing was started, it shall be considered 
to meet the burn-rate requirement of S4.3(a).

    V. Summary of Toyota's Analyses: Toyota stated its belief that the 
subject noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety for 
the following reasons:
    1. Toyota believes that its testing shows that the seat heater 
assemblies comply with FMVSS No. 302 when tested as a ``composite'' as 
installed in the vehicle, i.e., along with the surrounding FMVSS No. 
302 compliant seat cover, plus pad, and foam pad.
    2. Toyota believes that its testing and design review of the seat 
heater assemblies indicates that the chance of fire or flame induced by 
a malfunctioning seat heater is essentially zero.
    3. Toyota believes that the purpose of FMVSS No. 302 is to ``. . . 
reduce the deaths and injuries to motor vehicle occupants caused by 
vehicle fires, especially those originating in the interior of the 
vehicle from sources such

[[Page 4036]]

as matches or cigarettes.\1\'' The noncompliant seat heater assemblies 
would normally not be exposed to open flame or an ignition source (like 
matches or cigarettes) in its installed application, because it is 
installed within and surrounded by complying materials that meet FMVSS 
No. 302.

    \1\ Paragraph S2 of FMVSS No. 302 Flammability of Interior 

    4. The seat heater assembly is a very small portion of the overall 
mass of the soft material portions comprising the entire seat assembly 
(i.e. less than 1%), and is significantly less in relation to the 
entire vehicle interior surface area that could potentially be exposed 
to flame. Therefore, Toyota believes that it would have an 
insignificant adverse effect on interior material burn rate and the 
potential for occupant injury due to interior fire.
    5. Toyota is not aware of any data suggesting that fires have 
occurred in the field due to the installation of the non-complying seat 
heater assemblies.
    6. Toyota also expressed its belief that in similar situations 
NHTSA has granted petitions for inconsequential noncompliance relating 
to FMVSS No. 302 requirements.
    Toyota additionally informed NHTSA that it has corrected the 
noncompliance so that all future production vehicles will comply with 
FMVSS No. 302.
    Toyota also provided Transport Canada's October 1, 2014, grant 
letter to exempt it from conducting a recall and remedy campaign for 
the identical issue for vehicles that were sold in Canada.\2\

    \2\ Docket ID: NHTSA-2014-0028-0003.

    In summation, Toyota believes that the described noncompliance of 
the subject vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and 
that its petition, to exempt Toyota 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.

NHTSA Decision

    NHTSA Analysis: NHTSA has reviewed and accepts Toyota's analyses 
that the subject noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle 
safety. Specifically, the fact that the front and rear seat cushions 
and front and rear seat backs in the subject vehicles fail to meet the 
burn rates requirement, poses little if any risk to motor vehicle 
    NHTSA's greatest concern was that as a seat heater, the device 
itself is the most likely ignition source. However, Toyota stated that 
it is not aware of any data suggesting that vehicle fires have occurred 
in the field due to the non-complying seat heaters. NHTSA searched its 
complaints database from the year 2000 to current and also found no 
complaints concerning the subject vehicles. We did find four Toyota 
seat heater complaints concerning older vehicles (three Toyota Sienna's 
model years 2006 and two 2004's and a 2007 Toyota Camry). While these 
complaints appear to show that seat heaters can be potential ignition 
sources, the hazard does not appear to be widespread or an issue with 
the subject vehicles. Toyota also conducted various testing to show 
that the seat heater element would not act as an ignition source when 
overdriven electrically, nor would it accommodate a flame rate beyond 
what is permitted by FMVSS No. 302 when exposed directly to an open 
flame in the installed condition (as a composite). Toyota also 
demonstrated that the seat heater is a very small portion of the 
overall mass of the seat assembly and that NHTSA has granted prior 
inconsequentiality petitions for similar issues.
    Based on its review of Toyota's submission, the agency has 
concluded that the ``seat heaters'' in the noncompliant vehicles are 
unlikely to pose a flammability risk. This conclusion is consistent 
with Transport Canada's review of the identical issue. NHTSA's 
evaluation of the consequentiality of this noncompliance should not be 
interpreted as a diminution of the agency's safety concern for the 
flammability of interior materials. Rather, it represents NHTSA's 
assessment of the gravity of this specific noncompliance based upon the 
likely consequences. Ultimately, the issue is whether this particular 
noncompliance is likely to create a risk to safety. NHTSA is not aware 
of any occupant injuries regarding these seat heaters. Based on the 
foregoing, NHTSA has decided that Toyota has met its burden of 
persuasion that the noncompliance herein described is inconsequential 
to motor vehicle safety.
    To avoid confusion, NHTSA would like to note that an existing NHTSA 
safety recall campaign involving approximately 3,233 Toyota vehicles is 
unaffected by this inconsequential noncompliance decision. That safety 
recall campaign is being conducted by an independent motor vehicle 
distributor that modified Toyota vehicles with defective aftermarket 
seat heaters that can malfunction and burn holes in the seating 
materials. For more information refer to NHTSA Recall ID Number 14V-743 
at: http://www.safercar.gov.
    NHTSA Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has 
decided that Toyota has met its burden of persuasion that the FMVSS No. 
302 noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, Toyota's petition is hereby granted and Toyota is exempted 
from the obligation of providing notification of, and a 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, any decision on 
this petition 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 Toyota 
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.

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

Jeffrey M. Giuseppe,
Acting Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2015-01204 Filed 1-23-15; 8:45 am]