The federal government's final rule on tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) is inadequate as written and should be changed, several companies and associations have told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
``(T)his final rule will not keep the motoring public safe,'' the Tire Industry Association (TIA) said, reiterating its opposition to the final rule the agency handed down April 7. The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) agreed, noting the same points it has made for years about the standard, but concentrated its comments on two technical areas it felt were in error.
Volkswagen of America Inc., Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. and various TPMS manufacturers also petitioned NHTSA, asking for changes that would clarify either the rule's technology requirements or its stipulations to motorists.
TIA stated again the basic premise it shares with the RMA: that the standard's provision allowing tires to fall 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure before a warning light illuminates endangers drivers while giving them a false sense of security.
In issuing the final notice, NHTSA noted that no vehicle manufacturers objected to the 25-percent differential. There's a reason for that, according to TIA.
``(I)f a tire fails, the consumer will point to, and often sue, the tire companies, not the automobile manufacturer,'' the association said.
TIA also objected to NHTSA doubling the proposed time between the TPMS sensing a tire inflation problem and warning the driver, to 20 minutes from 10.
``TIA is very concerned that this additional 10 minutes will allow an underinflated tire to further deflate, overheat and potentially fail,'' it said.
The RMA mentioned these objections but devoted the bulk of its statement to its opposition to a change in the TPMS test procedure championed by VW and the Swedish firm NIRA Dynamics A.B. It also slammed the agency's proposal to change the minimum activation pressure (MAP) under the standard to 35 psi for Load Range D and E tires.
``In our view, a MAP of 35 psi for these tires will not ensure that consumers are adequately warned before the tires are dangerously underinflated or overloaded,'' the RMA said.
Sumitomo, which has developed an indirect, software-based TPMS it sells to several upscale auto makers worldwide, thanked the agency for its efforts in making the rule technology-neutral.
At the same time, though, it urged NHTSA to require the addition of a statement to vehicle owners' manuals that monitoring systems can malfunction, making it necessary for motorists to check their tire pressures regularly.
VW, on the other hand, said the final rule severely limits the possibility of certifying advanced TPMS technology systems.
``Volkswagen believes that NHTSA did not give adequate consideration...to the need for a practicable, technology-neutral standard,'' the auto maker said.
Also weighing in on the issue-and calling on NHTSA to make changes to its final TPMS rule-were the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.
SEMA said it was concerned, among other things, about the standard's silence on whether the TPMS malfunction indicator lamp can be replaced with an equivalent system and that it contains no requirement to reprogram TPMS units to accommodate replacement tires.
The AAM asked for several technical changes, including some to the table for minimum activation pressures for Load Range D and E tires.
Public Citizen said the standard fails consumers because it gives them no way to know whether their replacement tires are compatible with their TPMS units until after the tires are mounted on the vehicles.
May 23 was the deadline for petitions for reconsideration of the TPMS rule.
NHTSA officially has 90 days to consider such petitions, but routinely ignores that deadline, sources said.