SEMA Prevails On Motor Vehicle Lighting Rule
NHTSA Alters Interpretation on Enhanced Replacement Headlamp Systems
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 1, 2005): Following a challenge by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has withdrawn a controversial interpretation of the federal lighting standard. SEMA disputed NHTSA’s constitutional and statutory authority to prohibit vehicle headlamp replacement systems that are different than the headlamps and components which came with the original vehicle. The agency’s latest action reverses this ruling.
In a Nov. 1, 2005 notice published in the Federal Register, NHTSA agreed with SEMA that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108 is a performance standard that allows for different types of replacement headlamp systems, lamps and sources so long as the system meets the photometry and functionality requirements of the standard. It had been NHTSA’s contention that replacement headlamps must comply with all applicable photometry requirements using the same light source as the original equipment. This interpretation would have prohibited, for example, replacing a halogen-based system with high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that otherwise meet all requirements of FMVSS 108.
“NHTSA’s reversal is wholly consistent with the statutory requirement that replacement lighting equipment meet an objective performance standard. We applaud the agency for issuing this revised ruling,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “A policy limiting the consumer’s choice of design runs contrary to long-standing precedent, is beyond authority as delegated by Congress and could have threatened other equipment beyond lighting in the future. We are pleased that by acting on our members’ behalf, we were able to overturn this policy.”
NHTSA first issued its controversial interpretation in 2003 as a draft opinion letter subject to public comment. None of the 25 organizations and businesses that commented agreed with NHTSA's proposal that replacement equipment conform to the standard in the same manner as the original equipment. Instead, commenters argued that aftermarket manufacturers should be allowed to certify replacement lighting equipment under FMVSS No. 108 in such manner as complies with the performance standard it sets forth. Despite these recommendations, NHTSA stuck with its position and published a final opinion letter in October 2004. SEMA immediately petitioned the agency to reconsider its action.
“SEMA continues to stand for the right to responsibly accessorize, modify, and improve vehicles with enhanced aftermarket lighting,” said SEMA Chairman Mitch Williams. “Enhanced headlamp lighting systems improve safety aspects of the vehicle and can be fully compliant with all relevant Federal standards. SEMA vigorously opposed this interpretation of a long-standing regulation. It threatened to inhibit many legitimate companies who are in the business of improving vehicle lighting to the benefit of the motoring public. SEMA welcomes NHTSA’s reversal and will continue to work with the agency to ensure fair and accurate implementation of this new interpretation.”
Founded in 1963, SEMA represents the $32 billion specialty automotive industry of 6,466 member companies. It is the authoritative source for research, data, trends and market growth information for automakers and the specialty auto products industry. The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles.
For more information contact SEMA at 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765-0910
call 909/396-0289; or visit www.sema.org and www.enjoytheride.com