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HQ 959497

JANUARY 23, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 959497 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8543.89.90

George R. Tuttle, Esq.
Three Embarcadero Center, Suite 1160
San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Single Point Sensing System for Automotive Airbags; Resistors, Transistors, Capacitors, Diodes Mounted With Acceleration Sensors on a Printed Circuit Board; Panel for Electric Control or Distribution of Electricity, Heading 8537; Automotive Parts and Accessories, Heading 8708; Section XVII, Note 2(f); Electrical Machines and Apparatus n.s.i.e., NY 809651

Dear Mr. Tuttle:

Your submissions to the National Commodity Specialist Division, New York Seaport, dated May 8 and July 10, 1996, on behalf of TEMIC TELEFUNKEN MICROELECTRONICS GmbH, concerning the tariff classification of control apparatus for motor vehicle airbag sensors have been referred to this office.


The merchandise in issue is an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) for the type SAS airbag single point sensing system. Descriptive literature you have submitted depicts a printed circuit board housed in a metal body which functions as a processor. Mounted on this board are resistors, transistors, capacitors and diodes, as well as one or two acceleration sensors. In the event of sudden motor vehicle deceleration, as in a collision, a piezoelectric element within the acceleration sensor generates an electronic signal which the controller analyzes as to severity and, when a predetermined velocity change threshold is reached or exceeded, generates an amplified signal to a separate apparatus that incorporates a triggering mechanism which initiates the release of gas to inflate the airbag.

You maintain the ECU is a machine having individual functions that is not specified or included elsewhere in Chapter 85. Thus, in your opinion, the ECU is classifiable in subheading 8543.89.90, HTSUS, as electrical machines and apparatus having individual functions. You cite NY 809651, dated May 3, 1995, which classified substantially similar merchandise in subheading 8543.80.98 (now 89.90), HTSUS. For this reason, you abandon your original claim under subheading 8708.99.80, HTSUS, as other parts or accessories of motor vehicles, as that classification is precluded by Section XVII, Note 2(f), HTSUS.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

8537 Boards, panels...and other bases, equipped with two or more of the apparatus of heading 8535 or 8536, for electric control or the distribution of electricity...:

8537.10 For a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:

8537.10.90 Other...4.3 percent ad valorem

8543 Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in [chapter 85]:

8543.89 Other:


8543.89.90 Other...3.4 percent ad valorem

8708 Parts and accessories of the motor vehicles of headings 8701 to 8705:

Other parts and accessories:

8708.99 Other:

8708.99.80 Other...2.9 percent ad valorem


Whether the ECU, as described, is provided for specifically in a heading of Chapter 85; whether it is an electrical machine or apparatus of heading 8543; if neither, whether it is an automotive part or accessory of heading 8708.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

Articles of Section XVII, which includes heading 8708, are excluded from Section XVI, which includes heading 8543, among others. Section XVI, Note 1(l), HTSUS. For purposes of heading 8708, the expression "parts" and "parts and accessories" do not apply to electrical machinery or equipment (Chapter 85). Section XVII, Note 2(f), HTSUS. Therefore, if the ECU is a good of any heading in Chapter 85, it cannot be classified in heading 8708.

There is no indication either in your descriptions or in the submitted literature that the acceleration sensor in the ECU functions by causing contacts to close and thus completes an electrical circuit in the manner of a switch of heading 8536. Likewise, there is no indication the ECU contains two or more of the apparatus of headings 8535 or 8536, for electric control or the distribution of electricity, mounted on a board, panel or other base. Therefore, heading 8537 does not apply. No other heading in Chapter 85 describes the ECU by specific function. Moreover, the available evidence does not confirm that the ECU is a composite machine, as defined in Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS, which would be classifiable as that component or machine which performs the principal function.

Relevant ENs at p. 1402 state that heading 85.43 covers all electrical appliances and apparatus not falling in any other heading of Chapter 85, or covered more specifically elsewhere in the Nomenclature, or excluded by a legal note to Section XVI or to Chapter 85. The ENs continue by stating the goods of heading 85.43 must have individual functions. The heading 84.79 ENs, concerning machines and mechanical appliances, apply by appropriate substitution of terms. These notes state, in part at p. 1314, that a mechanical device whose function can be performed distinctly from and independently of any other machine or appliance is to be regarded as having an "individual function." In this case, the function of the ECU is to generate an electrical signal which activates an independent mechanical device that deploys the airbag. The evidence of record does not indicate that the ECU depends on any other machine, appliance or apparatus to perform this function. Therefore, the ECU has an individual function for purposes of heading 8543.

As the ECU is described by the terms of heading 8543, is not more specifically provided for elsewhere in the Nomenclature, nor excluded by an appropriate section or chapter legal note, heading 8708 is eliminated from consideration. In NY 809651, dated May 3, 1995, a ruling you cite, substantially similar airbag deployment apparatus was found to be classifiable in subheading 8543.80.98 (now 89.90), HTSUS.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the TEMIC Electrionic Control Unit (ECU) is provided for in heading 8543. It is classifiable in subheading 8543.89.90, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification

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