Feds Could Pull Tesla Roadster's Advanced Airbag Waiver

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Automotive News [sub] points us to a notice in the Federal Register, which notes that

In accordance with the procedures in 49 CFR Part 555, Tesla Motors, Inc., has petitioned the agency for renewal of a temporary exemption from certain advanced air bag requirements of FMVSS No. 208. The basis for the application is that the petitioner avers that compliance would cause it substantial economic hardship and that it has tried in good faith to comply with the standard…

Not so bad, right? As a small manufacturer, Tesla simply has to prove that it still isn’t in the financial shape to put advanced airbags in its money-losing Roadster… after all, nothing has fundamentally changed since the initial waiver was granted. But it turns out that NHTSA isn’t going to give out these waivers like candy anymore…

Notwithstanding those previous grants of exemption, NHTSA is considering two key issues–

(1) whether it is in the public interest to continue to grant such

petitions, particularly in the same manner as in the past, given the

number of years these requirements have now been in effect and the

benefits of advanced air bags, and

(2) to the extent such petitions are granted, what plans and

countermeasures to protect child and infant occupants, short of

compliance with the advanced air bags, should be expected.

While the exemption authority was created to address the problems of small manufacturers and the agency wishes to be appropriately attentive to those problems, it was not anticipated by the agency that use of this authority would result in small manufacturers being given much more than relatively short term exemptions from recently implemented safety standards, especially those addressing particularly significant safety problems.

Given the passage of time since the advanced air bag requirements were established and implemented, and in light of the benefits of advanced air bags, NHTSA is considering whether it is in the public interest to continue to grant exemptions from these requirements, particularly under the same terms as in the past. The costs of compliance with the advanced air bag requirements of FMVSS No. 208 are costs that all entrants to the U.S. automobile marketplace should expect to bear. Furthermore, NHTSA understands that, in contrast to the initial years after the advanced air bag requirements went into effect, low volume manufacturers now have access to advanced air bag technology. Accordingly, NHTSA tentatively concludes that the expense of advanced air bag technology is not now sufficient, in and of itself, to justify the grant of a petition for a hardship exemption from the advanced air bag requirements

And guess what? NHTSA should be pulling Tesla’s waiver. After all, if a couple of guys importing Shuanghuan Noble gliders in small batches and converting them to CNG power are complying with NHTSA’s Advanced Airbag requirement, why shouldn’t a well-funded, public company that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer support?

Join the conversation
4 of 9 comments
  • Eldard Eldard on Jun 10, 2011

    Why not hire Tiger Woods? He's the best person to sell golf carts.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jun 10, 2011

    I can't believe that the political impetus to fast-track goofy golf carts is already crumbling. I thought for sure that the global warming hysteria would be forever, just like dot-com stocks and disco music.

    • See 1 previous
    • GS650G GS650G on Jun 11, 2011

      Super Prez wants a million electric cars on the road in three years, we have to start somewhere.

  • 56m65711446 Well, I had a suburban auto repair shop in those days.
  • Dukeisduke Yikes - reading the recall info from NHTSA, this sounds like the Hyundai/Kia 2.4l Theta II "engine fire" recall, since it involves an engine block or oil pan "breach", so basically, throwing a rod:"Description of the Safety Risk : Engine oil and/or fuel vapor that accumulates near a sufficiently hot surface, below the combustion initiation flame speed, may ignite resulting in an under hood fire, and increasing the risk of injury. Description of the Cause :Isolated engine manufacturing issues have resulted in 2.5L HEV/PHEV engine failures involving engine block or oil pan breach. In the event of an engine block or oil pan breach, the HEV/PHEV system continues to propel the vehicle allowing the customer to continue to drive the vehicle. As the customer continues to drive after a block breach, oil and/or fuel vapor continues to be expelled and accumulates near ignition sources, primarily expected to be the exhaust system. Identification of Any Warning that can Occur :Engine failure is expected to produce loud noises (example: metal-to-metal clank) audible to the vehicle’s occupants. An engine failure will also result in a reduction in engine torque. In Owner Letters mailed to customers, Ford will advise customers to safely park and shut off the engine as promptly as possible upon hearing unexpected engine noises, after experiencing an unexpected torque reduction, or if smoke is observed emanating from the engine compartment."
  • Dukeisduke In an ideal world, cars would be inspected in the way the MoT in the UK does it, or the TÜV in Germany. But realistically, a lot of people can't afford to keep their cars to such a high standard since they need them for work, and widespread public transit isn't a thing here.I would like the inspections to stick around (I've lived in Texas all my life, and annual inspections have always been a thing), but there's so much cheating going on (and more and more people don't bother to get their cars inspected or registration renewed), so without rigorous enforcement (which is basically a cop noticing your windshield sticker is out of date, or pulling you over for an equipment violation), there's no real point anymore.
  • Zipper69 Arriving in Florida from Europe and finding ZERO inspection procedures I envisioned roads crawling with wrecks held together with baling wire, duct tape and prayer.Such proved NOT to be the case, plenty of 20-30 year old cars and trucks around but clearly "unsafe at any speed" vehicles are few and far between.Could this be because the median age here is 95, so a lot of low mileage vehicles keep entering the market as the owners expire?
  • Zipper69 At the heart of GM’s resistance to improving the safety of its fuel systems was a cost benefit analysis done by Edward Ivey which concluded that it was not cost effective for GM to spend more than $2.20 per vehicle to prevent a fire death. When deposed about his cost benefit analysis, Mr. Ivey was asked whether he could identify a more hazardous location for the fuel tank on a GM pickup than outside the frame. Mr. Ivey responded, “Well yes…You could put in on the front bumper.”