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HQ 963831

JANUARY 11, 2001

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963831 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8512.30.00

Mr. Joe Kobayashi
N.I. Logistics American Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

RE: Automotive Warning System

Dear Mr. Kobayashi:

Your letter to the Director of Customs National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, dated February 1, 2000, concerning classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of an automobile warning system, has been referred to this office for reply. We regret the delay in responding.


Submitted literature describes a device which emits different warning signals using a combination of caution lamp, siren and/or voice alarm. When a door opens, the caution lamp flashes and a combination of the siren and voice alarm sounds for approximately 50 seconds. A strong blow to the windshield activates the caution lamp and siren for approximately 60 seconds. A slight shock to the windshield activates the siren for a tenth of a second. The unit mounts to the sun visor of the automobile with a clip and is powered through the cigarette lighter socket together with a nickel-cadmium battery. With the engine off, the device goes into stand-by mode, then will arm itself. A flashing LED indicates the system is activated. Turning the engine on disarms the device. Arming and disarming may also be button-operated. Stand-by time can be regulated so that the driver may enter the car or exit and lock the car.

You maintain that because the device contains an LED indicator, it is classifiable in subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as indicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD’s) or light emitting diodes (LED’s). For the reasons that follow, we disagree with this classification.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8512 Electrical lighting or signaling equipment, of a kind used for cycles or motor vehicles:

Other lighting or visual signaling equipment:

8512.20.40 Visual signaling equipment

8512.30.00 Sound signaling equipment

8531 Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof:

8531.10.00 Burglar or fire alarms and similar apparatus

8531.20.00 Indicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD’s) or light emitting diodes (LED’s)


Whether the automobile warning system is a good of heading 8512.


Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified 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. Goods prima facie classifiable in two or more headings shall be according to GRI 3. GRI 6 authorizes the classification of goods within subheadings of the same heading.

By its terms, heading 8531 excludes electric sound signaling apparatus of heading 8512. Heading 8531 covers all electrical apparatus for signaling purposes, with the exception of signaling apparatus used on cycles or motor vehicles (heading 85.12) and such apparatus for traffic control on roads, railways, etc. (heading 85.30). The issue here is whether the device is electrical sound signaling or visual signaling apparatus or equipment principally used for motor vehicles. If it is, then heading 8531 does not apply.

The qualifying language in heading 8512 “of a kind used for cycles or motor vehicles” is a provision governed by “principal use.” See Group Italglass U.S.A., Inc. v. United States, 17 C.I.T. 226, 839 F. Supp. 866 (1993). In accordance with Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(a), HTSUS, the controlling use is the principal use at or immediately prior to the date of importation of the goods of that class or kind to which the import belongs. The submitted literature describes a device clipped to the sun visor of a motor vehicle and powered by a battery that is charged through the vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket. The available information indicates to us that the automotive warning system at issue belongs to a class or kind of sound signaling equipment principally used for motor vehicles.

The literature indicates that the warnings the device emits are combinations of siren, voice and caution lamp. Applying GRI 3 at the subheading level through GRI 6, the comparison is between subheading 8512.20.40 and subheading 8512.30.00. While loud sirens and particularly a person’s voice might tend to alarm an intruder more so than a blinking caution lamp, the evidence is inconclusive as to whether either the sound signaling mode or the visual signaling mode is more or less significant than the other. In such cases, GRI 3(c) applied at the subheading level through GRI 6 authorizes classification in the subheading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration. For similar rulings relating to the classification of motor vehicle alarms please see HQ 964660 and HQ 964661, dated January 4, 2001.


Under the authority of GRI 3(c) and GRI 6, the automobile warning system is provided for in heading 8512. It is classifiable in subheading 8512.30.00, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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