NHTSA notes that, where a safety standard provides manufacturers more than one compliance option, the agency needs to know which option has been selected in order to conduct a compliance test. Moreover, based on previous experience with enforcing standards that include compliance options, the agency is aware that a manufacturer confronted with an apparent noncompliance for the option it has selected (based on a compliance test) may respond by arguing that its vehicles comply with a different option for which the agency has not conducted a compliance test. This response creates obvious difficulties for the agency in managing its available resources for carrying out its enforcement responsibilities, e.g., the possible need to conduct multiple compliance tests (possibly involving full-scale vehicle crash tests) for first one compliance option, then another, to determine whether there is a noncompliance.
To address this problem, the agency is proposing to require that where manufacturer options are specified, the manufacturer must select the option by the time it certifies the vehicle and may not thereafter select a different option for the vehicle. This will mean that failure to comply with the selected option will constitute a noncompliance with the standard regardless of whether a vehicle complies with another option.
Similarly, for manufacturers which select the option for an automatic suppression feature that suppresses the air bag when an occupant is out of position, the agency is proposing to require that the manufacturer must select the passenger side automatic suppression plane and the driver side automatic suppression plane by the time it certifies the vehicle, and may not thereafter select different planes. This is to avoid situations where the agency conducts compliance tests using the automatic suppression planes selected by the manufacturer and is later told, after a test indicates an apparent noncompliance, that the vehicle may comply for different automatic suppression planes.