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Chrysler Corp. v. Department of Transportation

472 F.2d 659 (1972)

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Chrysler Corp. v. Department of Transportation

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

472 F.2d 659 (1972)

Facts

The National Highway Traffic Administration of the Department of Transportation (the agency) (defendant) published Standard 208, an order regarding motor-vehicle safety and passive-restraint devices. Several auto manufacturers and airbag developers had been making progress in developing adequate airbag technology, a type of passive restraint contemplated by Standard 208, and were confident airbag technology would soon advance enough to be implemented in motor vehicles. The final rule was published as Notice 9 after a number of formal and informal meetings dealing with comments from interested persons. The final rule published in Notice 9 and subsequent notices required vehicle manufacturers to provide complete passive protection for occupants according to certain standards. The agency published Notice 12 as a response to petitions for reconsideration of Notice 9, stating that if a vehicle complies with the safety standards in a test conducted by the manufacturer, then the agency will not find the vehicle in noncompliance simply due to variations from different test dummies. The safety standards also set out criteria for crash-test dummies, which the agency recognized as inadequate for consistent results. Chrysler Corporation, Jeep, American Motors, Ford, and the Automobile Importers of America (the companies) (plaintiffs) challenged the validity of Notice 9. Three parties also challenged the validity of Notice 12. The companies argued that the final rule requiring passive restraints was essentially an airbag mandate and that the Automobile Safety Act of 1966 authorized the agency to establish performance requirements only for equipment that may be readily installed rather than requiring the auto manufacturers to develop and apply new technology. The companies also argued that the specifications for test dummies established by SAE Recommended Practice J963 allowed so much variability in test-dummy design that results of safety tests could not be reliably reproduced to allow for the evaluation of objective criteria. The district court found for the agency. The auto companies appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Peck, J.)

Dissent (Miller, J.)

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