United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1998 HQ Rulings > HQ 961504 - HQ 961986 > HQ 961512

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 961512

APRIL 24, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 961512 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8703.90.00

Paul Jackson Rice, Esq.
Arent, Fox, Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, PLLC
1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036-5339

RE: Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV); Motor Vehicles Principally Designed for the Transport of Persons, Heading 8703, Golf Carts and Similar Vehicles, Subheading 8703.10.50; Other Motor Vehicles, Subheading 8703.90.00; Marubeni America Corp. v. U.S., THK America, Inc. v. U.S.

Dear Mr. Rice:

In a letter, dated March 11, 1998, on behalf of Bombardier, Inc., you request a classification ruling under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), on the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), a product of Canada. Additional facts and legal arguments were presented at a meeting in our office on April 15, 1998, which you summarized in a letter, dated April 16, 1998.


The Bombardier Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, NEV or NV, is a 4-wheel, 2-person, battery-powered, motorized vehicle with the following dimensions: 100 inches long, 55 inches wide, 61.4 inches high, 65 inch wheel base, and 1,276 lb. operating or curb weight. The NV has one forward and one reverse gear, a 30-mile range, maximum speed of 25 mph., and is powered by a 72v, 4kw DC motor with 6-12v L/A batteries. The retail price is between $7,000 and $8,000.

The NV has design features such as unibody construction with glass reinforced plastic body and front and rear steel subframe sides and roof, four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, dash-mounted function key selector, speedometer/ odometer, front wheel hydraulic drum brakes and rear wheel regeneration brakes, and street tires with wheel covers. In
addition, the NV features, as standard equipment, front head lamps, rear brake lights, horn, laminated glass windshield with wiper, driver and passenger side rear view mirrors, glove compartment, adjustable bucket seats with 3-point retractable seat belts.

The NV comes in two models, the Class-E and the Sport-E, each with a golf option package that includes low speed (15 mph) golf mode limiter, molded plastic golf bag holder in the trunk, 10 inch turf tires, passenger side restraint system and golf cart-type hill brake. Available accessories for both models include a door kit, am/fm cassette stereo system, tinted windshield, windshield wiper and washer system, sun visor, license plate lamp, side/rear rain curtain and full body cover. You acknowledge that the NV is a motor vehicle as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as it does not have an abnormal body configuration that would readily distinguish it from other vehicles that regularly use the public roads, and has a maximum attainable speed in excess of 20 mph. However, the NV does not meet applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Nevertheless, you contend that the NV is based on existing golf cart technology with respect to the servo, drive train, and axles. The accentuated design features of the NV are cosmetic in nature, making it, in your opinion, simply an upgraded golf cart. For these reasons, you claim the NV is in fact a golf cart, or at least, similar to a golf cart, and should be classified in subheading 8703.10.50, HTSUS, a provision for golf carts and similar vehicles. You maintain the NV is designed, manufactured and marketed toward golf cart purchasers; it is designed to meet applicable golf cart safety and performance requirements in American National Standards Institute/National Golf Car Manufacturers Association standard Z130.1 (1993); and, as the provision for golf carts and similar vehicles is not a "use" provision, the fact the NV may not be principally used on golf courses is not legally relevant.

You were tentatively advised by Customs officers at St. Albans, Vermont, that they do not regard the NV as a golf cart, nor as being similar to a golf cart, and that subheading 8703.90.00, HTSUS, a provision for other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, represents the correct classification.


Whether the NV is a vehicle similar to a golf cart.


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.

Initially, the parties agree that the NV is not a golf cart. Rather, the issue is whether it has the identifying characteristics of and, therefore, resembles or is similar to a golf cart. We will therefore focus on the construction and design of the NV as well as its intended function and purpose.

As a preliminary matter, the fact that the NHTSA may regard the NV as a motor vehicle and therefore subject to applicable Federal safety requirements is not a relevant consideration as non-tariff statutes and regulations are not dispositive for purposes of tariff classification. See Marubeni America Corp., v. United States, 821 F.Supp. 1521 (1993). The design features of the NV that we view as relevant are inherently structural. The NV has unibody construction with glass-reinforced plastic body and front and rear steel subframe, sides and roof. This is a body type that makes the NV readily indistinguishable from other traditional motor vehicles. Non-enclosed sides and rear, absence of a front or rear windshield, a single bench seat, and canopy roof, on the other hand, are design features common to golf carts or golf cart-like vehicles. The NV has four-wheel independent suspension and rack and pinion steering, which are automotive design concepts. Likewise, the speedometer/odometer, front head lamps, laminated glass windshield with wiper, dual rear view mirrors, and adjustable 2-person bucket seats with 3-point retractable seat belts are traditional automotive design features. Auxiliary features such as wheel covers, available doors, am/fm cassette stereo system, tinted windshield and
license plate lamp, even the burgundy and jade colors, clearly relate to visual appeal and passenger comfort, and are automotive design features.

As to purpose and function, an importer's catalogs and advertisements are not dispositive of the correct classification of goods under the HTSUS, but they are certainly probative of the way the importer views the goods and of the market he intends to reach. See THK America, Inc. v. United States, Slip Op. 93-207 (1993). Submitted brochures depict the NV as a low speed, zero-emission alternative to the traditional automobile. Advertising literature portrays multiple roles for the NV as the perfect vehicle for the neighborhood, the golf course, country club, anywhere in a planned/suburban community with low density traffic and low speed zones. The very name, neighborhood vehicle, characterizes the NV's scope of intended use. That the NV can be used on golf courses is undeniable. However, while traditional golf carts and golf cart-like vehicles can be driven on the public roadways, they are not designed primarily for such use. On the other hand, the available information strongly suggests that the primary function and purpose for which the NV was designed is to traverse the public roads with use on golf courses but one possible use.

The overall design features of the NV, together with information as to the function it serves and its scope of use, compels us to conclude that it is substantially similar to traditional motor vehicles for the transport of persons, and is not a golf cart or a vehicle similar thereto.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the Bombardier Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, NEV or NV, is provided for in heading 8703. It is classifiable in subheading 8703.90.00, HTSUS, as other motor vehicles.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: