The Reagan administration told the U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday that it will be impossible for auto manufacturers to comply with the court's order that all cars made after September 1983 be equipped with air bags or automatically closing seat belts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a survey showed that no automaker could meet the court's deadline.
At least one or two more years would be required for all manufacturers to gear up their production line to install these passive restraints, the NHTSA said in its 11-page filing.
Even so, the court should hold off settting any air bag deadline pending a Supreme Court decision on the NHTSA's appeal of the federal court ruling, the agency said.
Even if the Supreme Court were to decline to hear the case this fall, the NHTSA -- and not the court -- should set the deadline, the agency contended.
The NHTSA said it would set the deadline, if necessary, after an extensive rule-making that, among other things, will look into whether any changes should be made in the air bag regulation.
Last fall, NHTSA Administrator Raymond Peck overruled his staff and repealed the regulation, finding that it would not accomplish its goal of protecting drivers and passengers.
The appeals court, however, overturned Peck's decision this summer, saying it was made without sufficient evidence, and then ordered the NHTSA to reimpose the regulation, effective September 1983.