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SEMA To Challenge New Motor Vehicle Lighting Rules

SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, announced this week that it will formally challenge a recent final interpretation of federal lighting standards issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The association said it will utilize all options to fight the rule, including filing a lawsuit in federal court, if necessary.

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DIAMOND BAR, CA — SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, announced this week that it will formally challenge a recent final interpretation of federal lighting standards issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The association said it will utilize all options to fight the rule, including filing a lawsuit in federal court, if necessary.

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The NHTSA final interpretation, issued in October of this year, indicates that the agency will now be treating as illegal, certain vehicle headlamp replacement systems that had previously been deemed in full compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108 and legal for highway use. The final NHTSA policy completes action on two draft letters of interpretation issued last year that proposed to prohibit replacement items that did not conform to federal standards in the same manner as the original equipment or use the same light sources as the original equipment.

Although opposed by SEMA and its allies in formal public comments, NHTSA’s final letter of interpretation concluded that replacement headlamps must comply with all applicable photometry requirements using the same light source as the OEM equipment. This means that meeting the performance requirements of FMVSS No. 108 no longer ensures that a headlamp system is in compliance with federal rules. For example, the new interpretation would prohibit replacing a halogen-based system with high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that otherwise meet all requirements of FMVSS 108.

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“The new policy statement on headlamps changes dramatically the agency’s position for compliance with federal standards,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “It is SEMA’s view that this new position runs contrary to long-standing precedent, is beyond authority as delegated by Congress and has implications as a new precedent that could affect equipment other than lighting. We are compelled to act on our members’ behalf to do all that is possible to overturn this new policy.”

SEMA indicated that the new interpretation effectively establishes an original equipment standard for headlamp light sources and holds that the original equipment light source type cannot be modified or otherwise altered by aftermarket manufacturers seeking to improve the lighting of a given vehicle.

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“SEMA continues to stand for the right to responsibly accessorize, modify, and improve your vehicle with enhanced aftermarket lighting,” said SEMA Lighting Task Force 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 opposes this ill-conceived interpretation of a long-standing regulation. We believe that NHTSA has gone too far, and is now actually preventing many legitimate companies who are in the business of improving vehicle lighting to the benefit of the motoring public.”

For more information about SEMA, go to: www.sema.org.

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