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HQ 952461

September 8, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 952461 DWS


TARIFF NO.: 8703.24.00

Mr. Tony Collini
John S. Conner, Inc.
33 South Gay St.
P.O. Box 1717
Baltimore, MD 21203-1717

RE: Land Rover Defender 110; Sport Utility Vehicle; Heading 8703; Heading 8704; HQ 083412; HQ 083589

Dear Mr. Collini:

This is in response to your letter of August 14, 1992, to the District Director of Customs, Baltimore District, concerning the classification of certain sport utility vehicles under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The vehicle in question is a Land Rover Defender 110. It is a 110 inch wheel base, 9 passenger sport utility vehicle, and, according to the importer, is designed primarily for the transport of persons. The vehicle has 4 side doors, 2 permanent rows of seats, a fifth door in the rear, and auxiliary seating for 4 of the 9 passengers via foldable center facing seats located in the rear area. The front row of seats consists of 2 separate armchair type seats which are divided by a center console. The second row is a permanently installed bench type seat. The seat is split 60/40, and the back can be folded down on the seat bottom and then folded forward. The rear side doors are hinged doors which swing open. The fifth door, located in the rear, is also hinged on the side. It only opens 90 degrees from its closed position, thus restricting access to the vehicle.

The rear area is fully carpeted and equipped with windows which open, and rear speakers for the stereo equipment. While the storage area in the rear is approximately 62 cubic feet, it is restricted by the existence of two platforms upon which the center facing rear seats are located. While the bottom cushions of the center facing seats fold up, they do not stow out of the way, so they restrict the storage of items in the rear area. Also, the existence of the platforms reduces the floor space of the vehicle to 11 square feet. The storage area is subject to an increase to approximately 85 cubic feet when the rear bench seats are folded forward, but the area remains encumbered by the rear stereo speakers, the platform, seat belts, passenger grab handles, and a side storage area.

The vehicle is 181.1 inches long, 70.5 inches wide, 90 inches in height, and has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 6504 pounds. It has a 3.9 liter, fuel injected, 8 cylinder V8 engine with a four speed manual transmission. It is built on a frame with a ground clearance of 8.5 inches. The vehicle has coil springs on all 4 wheels, and disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear. It is suitable for use both on-road and off- road.


What is the classification of the subject sport utility vehicle under the HTSUS?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

Concerning the subject vehicle, the two competing classification provisions are headings 8703 and 8704, HTSUS. Heading 8703, HTSUS, provides for: "[m]otor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing cars." Heading 8704, HTSUS, provides for: "[m]otor vehicles for the transport of goods."

We note that heading 8703, HTSUS, is very specific in limiting its classification to the kinds of vehicles that are "principally designed for the transport of persons".

A Range Rover vehicle similar to the subject vehicle was ruled upon in HQ 083412, dated May 19, 1989. In that ruling it was stated that:

[s]port utility vehicles typically are designed to perform multiple functions. Although these vehicles may vary in body style and utility, they have certain characteristics which are unique to this type of vehicle. For example, they are designed to carry passengers, as well as cargo, and are usually constructed on a truck chassis. This gives them a body design that is stronger than that of ordinary passenger cars. They have a boxy body structure which allows for considerable interior volume, and flat cargo floors, which facilitate the loading and unloading cargo. Sport utility vehicles also have a higher ground clearance, which allows them to be used both on-road and off-road. . . .

Structural design features indicating that a sport utility vehicle is designed for the transport of persons, include the presence of hinged rear side doors and rear side windows. The hinges prevent the doors from opening fully. The presence of a rear side door allows persons to access the rear of the vehicle and are evidence of its suitability for primarily transporting persons. Auxiliary design features suggesting that the vehicle was intended for passenger use include folding and removable seating, interior trim packages, and carpeting.

Based upon the above criteria, it is our position that the subject vehicle is principally designed for the transport of persons. It has hinged rear side doors, rear side windows, foldable seating, and carpeting. The hinged doors are evidence that the rear area was designed to allow passengers occupying the rear seats easy entry and exit, and are impractical for loading cargo.

Although no single factor determines whether a vehicle is principally designed for the transport of persons, the Land Rover's structural and auxiliary design features indicate that it was designed with the intent to primarily transport persons, not cargo. See also HQ 083589, dated May 4, 1989.


The Land Rover Defender 110 is classifiable under subheading 8703.24.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "[m]otor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading 8702), including station wagons and racing cars: [o]ther vehicles, with spark-ignition internal combustion reciprocating piston engine: [o]f a cylinder capacity exceeding 3,000 cc." The general, column one rate of duty is 2.5 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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