NHTSA grants temporary exemption to Aston Martin for new US safety rules

Article by Andrew Christian, on November 2, 2014

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has granted Aston Martin a temporary exemption to new safety rules that would have prevented the British carmaker from it selling hundreds of cars in the country. Aston Martin applied for a temporary exemption to side-impact federal safety standards in March 2014.

It said that the rules would cause it to suffer from "substantial economic hardship." NHTSA now has given Aston Martin more time to comply with the rules due to the niche nature of its business, saying that a compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a low volume carmaker “that has tried in good faith to comply with the standard.”

NHTSA’s move would soothe, albeit temporarily, the hardships being felt by Aston chief executive Andy Palmer is turning around the brand. Aston posted GBP25.4 million ($40.6 million) in pre-tax losses in 2013. NHTSA started implementing requirements for side airbags and other safety advances in 2010.

The requirements that affect coupe versions of Aston Martin DB9 grand tourers and Vantage sport cars are being implemented since September. With the exemption, Aston would not have to comply with the rules until end of August 2016 for the DB9 and end of August 2017 for the Vantage.

These rules, however, do not cover convertible versions of the models until September 2015. NHTSA has also granted exemption to the cars until the end of August 2017.

According to a spokeswoman for Aston, NHTSA’s decision will allow the carmaker to sell both coupe models in the US. An unfavorable decision would have meant that Aston would not be able to sell up to 670 vehicles over three years in the US.

James R. Walker, chairman of the US Aston Martin dealers advisory council, wrote to NHTSA that sans the exemption, the brand might lose some of its retailers in the country.

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