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HQ 083081

May 4, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:CV:G: 083081 JLV


TARIFF NO.: 8704.31.00

John B. Rehm, Esq.
Dorsey & Whitney
1330 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036

RE: Classification of multipurpose motor vehicles; revocation of decision issued on January 4, 1989 (file 083081)

Dear Mr. Rehm:

In a letter of November 21, 1988, on behalf of your client American Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki), you requested a ruling on the tariff classification of the Suzuki Samurai (Samurai) and Suzuki YOE, Y2R, and YOR (collectively YOE) motor vehicles under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). On January 4, 1989 (file 083081), we ruled that these multipurpose vehicles were classified in subheading 8704.31.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).

This decision revokes and supersedes our earlier decision. The facts are repeated and rationale follow.


The Samurai was the subject of several rulings issued under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), the most recent ruling of which was dated March 24, 1988 (file 081443); the YOE was classified under the TSUS in a ruling dated May 27, 1988 (file 082254). The facts presented in both those cases have not changed.

These vehicles were classified as automobile trucks in item 692.02, TSUS, or as other motor vehicles for the transport of persons or articles in item 692.10, TSUS,
depending on whether or not, in their condition as imported, they contained rear seats or passenger "amenities" in the rear area which impaired the cargo-carrying nature of the rear area. These criteria were traditional criteria used by Customs in classifying such vehicles under the TSUS.

The YOE was described in our ruling of May 27, 1988 (file 082254), as either a hardtop or a softtop. Either version was to be capable of two-wheel or four-wheel drive in either a low or high range manually selected by engaging a multi-range transfer case.

You identified the following features as relevant to classification of the vehicle as an automobile truck in item 692.02, Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS):

1. Truck-type chassis: separate frame

2. Rear door (hardtop) or rear gate (softtop) that is hinged on one side and swings wide open for cargo

3. Ridged floor design to support cargo weight

4. Drainage holes in floor for cargo spills

5. Rear floor approximately flush with rear bumper to permit easy loading and unloading

6. Height of rear floor for ease of loading

7. Spare tire mounted on rear door and away from cargo area

8. Side-opening windows in rear to vent odors from noxious cargo

Other features on the vehicle as imported consisted of the following:

9. Vents under front seats for heat or air conditioning, but no controls in rear

10. Threaded and recessed fasteners at specific locations in the rear deck area and side panels for installation of optional equipment, such as rear bench seat, seatbelts, and rear assist grips.

The dimensions and cargo capacity of the vehicle, in this condition as imported, were stated to be as follows: the hardtop and softtop measure approximately 3,620 mm in length,

1,630 mm in width, and 1,685 mm in height; the hardtop has a cargo volume capacity of approximately 38.5 to 39.1 cubic feet; the softtop has a cargo capacity of approximately 39.1 to 39.2 cubic feet; the payload weight capacity of the hardtop and softtop ranges from 860 to 1003 and 893 to 1069, respectively (slightly higher than the Samurai).

The same vehicle, however, could also be imported with rear seating and with accessories described as "passenger amenities" consisting of side trim, carpeting, ashtrays, headliner, and other items for the comfort and use of passengers seated behind the driver's area.

The dimensions of the rear cargo area were said to be similar to that of the Suzuki Samurai, as were the other features. Therefore, we will not repeat the description of various features of the Samurai which was set forth in our rulings of March 24, 1988, (file 081443) and July 22, 1984 (file 809545).

Both vehicles are "two-door" vehicles with a rear door that swings out. Access to the rear seat, in those models having a rear seat, is through one of the two front doors and by folding a front seat forward.

You state that the Samurai and the YOE should be classified as a motor vehicle for the transport of goods in heading 8704, HTSUS, if imported without rear seats and other accessories or items in the rear area. However, you also state that, if imported with rear seats or other options in the rear area that impede the loading, transport, and unloading of goods, the Samurai and the YOE should be classified as a motor vehicle principally designed for the transport of persons in heading 8703, HTSUS.

The advertising literature describes the Samurai as follows: "think of it as the handy small delivery truck[;]" "sturdy truck chassis and frame[;]" "[y]ou can fill the Samurai with friends, or load it with cargo[;]" "[f]or more room, the back seat folds forward, or is easily removed[;]" or "and we even have a Samurai in a truck version, which has no back seat and over 18 cubic feet of rear cargo space." This language identifies the Samurai (and the YOE) as a multi- purpose vehicle, even when a rear seat has been installed.


If imported without rear seats, are the Suzuki vehicles "motor vehicles for the transport of goods" within heading 8704, HTSUS? If so, and if seats and other appointments have been installed behind the driver and front passenger seats prior to importation, then are these same vehicles more properly within heading 8703, HTSUS, as "motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons?"


Classification under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 is as follows:

1. * * * for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the following provisions * *

The relevant headings in this case are as follows:

8703 Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing cars: * * *

8704 Motor vehicles for the transport of goods: * * *

There are no relevant legal notes in section XVII or chapter 87 which address these headings for our purposes in this ruling.

By the express language of heading 8703, motor vehicles must be "principally designed" for the transport of persons in order to be classified within that heading. Certain types of motor vehicles which are capable of off-the-road uses, such as the Suzuki 4x4 utility vehicles, are usually constructed on a truck chassis. These vehicles have been described as "multipurpose" or "sport utility" vehicles. The bodies of these vehicles may vary in style and utility, and, for purposes of this ruling, may have design features which permit both the transport of goods and people.

The design of the body on the Suzuki 4x4 vehicles is utilitarian and allows the easy loading, transportation, and unloading of goods: swing out rear door; flat floor and rear loading deck; and relatively high roof for the size and weight rating of the vehicle. These structural design features are consistent with a vehicle designed for the transport of goods because they provide a readily accessible and usable cargo space, together with a chassis and suspension that permits a cargo payload which is approximately 20 percent of the gross vehicle weight rating. The percentage of payload gross for small pickup trucks, for example, is normally from 15 percent to 25 percent of the gross vehicle weight.

The addition of auxiliary design features which adapt the vehicle to additional uses are evidence only of the fact that the vehicle, at this point, is a multipurpose vehicle. To the extent that a change does not significantly alter the basic structural design, there is insufficient evidence that the changes result in a vehicle "principally" designed for another purpose, such as the transport of persons. In this light, we view the addition of interior trim packages, carpeting, and removable or folding rear seats in the two-door Suzuki vehicles as insufficient to establish that transporting persons was the principal design criterion. These auxiliary design features do not, of themselves, effect an alteration of the fundamental structural design of a vehicle as a vehicle for the transport of goods.

Motor vehicles classified in heading 8703 are vehicles "principally designed for the transport of persons." In this case, the two-door Suzuki vehicles have all the structural features of a vehicle designed for the transport of goods. The addition of auxiliary features, such as the type of seating and the additional trim packages, are not a significant alteration to the goods-carrying structure so as to require a conclusion that they are principally designed for the transport of persons.

No single factor dictates whether a vehicle is principally designed for the transport of persons. In this case, the chassis and suspension, the body style, the payload capacity (by weight) in relation to the gross vehicle weight, and the relatively minor effect of the rear seating on the basic goods-carrying structural design of the Suzuki vehicles
indicate that these are multipurpose vehicles for the transport of goods and persons, and that the transport of persons is not the "principal design" of the vehicle.


If imported with spark-ignition internal combustion piston engines, the two-door Suzuki Samurai and YOE, Y2R, and YOR, described above and imported with or without rear seats and rear trim, are classified as motor vehicles for the transport of goods, other, G.V.W. not exceeding 5 metric tons, in subheading 8704.31.00, HTSUS, dutiable at 25 percent ad valorem pursuant to subheading 9903.87.00.

This decision supersedes our decision of January 4, 1989, as modified by letters of January 17, 1989, and February 10, 1989 (file 083081).

This decision applies to all such vehicles imported on or after January 1, 1989.


John Durant, Director

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