MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 733241 KG

Susan Kohn Ross, Esq.
Ross & Associates
5777 West Century Blvd.
Suite 520
Los Angeles, California 90045-5659

RE: Country of origin marking of imported auto parts; substantial transformation; ultimate purchaser; 19 CFR 134.32(d); 19 CFR 134.44(c).

Dear Ms. Ross:

This is in response to your letter of March 27, 1990, requesting a country of origin ruling regarding various imported automotive parts.


Various imported automotive parts were submitted for examination. Seven parts submitted were packaged in sealed cardboard boxes. All seven boxes were marked with the country of origin of the part. Further, all of the boxes also identify the part number. The seven parts are: (1)a ball joint; (2) a thermo switch; (3) a turn signal; (4) a brake disc; (5) head gaskets; (6) a master cylinder; and (7) a piston set.

The eighth part, a gasket kit, was packaged in a cardboard box with a window, wrapped in a poly shrink. The box is marked with the country of origin of the part and the part number. The ninth sample, 12 small black rubber pieces, is packaged in a sealed plastic bag which is marked "Made in Brazil" and identifies the part number. The tenth sample, a piece of rubber weatherstripping, is marked with the country of origin with a string tag attached to it.

These auto parts are primarily sold through catalogue sales to mechanics. The parts will not be visible once they are installed in an automobile.


Whether the various imported automotive parts described above are properly marked with their country of origin.


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. The Court of International Trade stated in Koru North America v. United States, 701 F.Supp. 229, 12 CIT (CIT 1988), that: "In ascertaining what constitutes the country of origin under the marking statute, a court must look at the sense in which the term is used in the statute, giving reference to the purpose of the particular legislation involved. The purpose of the marking statute is outlined in United States v. Friedlaender & Co., 27 CCPA 297 at 302, C.A.D. 104 (1940), where the court stated that: "Congress intended that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on the imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will."

A determination of who is the ultimate purchaser of the auto parts is critical because 19 CFR 134.41(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.41(b)), requires that the ultimate purchaser must be able to find the country of origin marking easily and read it without strain. Section 134.1(d), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.1(d)), defines the ultimate purchaser as generally the last person in the U.S. who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported. The definition then gives examples of who might be the ultimate purchaser if the imported article is used in manufacture. The ultimate purchaser of an article used in manufacture may be the manufacturer who subjects the imported article to a process which results in a substantial transformation of the article.

A substantial transformation occurs when articles lose their identity and become new articles having a new name, character or use. United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., 27 C.C.P.A. 267 at 270 (1940), National Juice Products Association v. United States, 10 CIT 48, 628 F.Supp. 978 (CIT 1986), Koru North America v. United States, 12 CIT 48, 701 F.Supp. 229 (CIT 1988).

Customs ruled in HQ 731506 (May 1, 1990), that the person who purchases replacement automotive glass is the ultimate purchaser and not the installer. The installation of the replacement windshield or car window is not considered a substantial transformation. In this case, the replacement automotive parts are ordered by mechanics to be sold to consumers and installed by the mechanic into the consumer's car. The installation of the various auto parts involved here is similar to the installation of replacement automotive glass. The auto part is imported in a completely finished condition and does not undergo a change in its name, character or use. Further, there was no assertion that the installation of any of these parts is particularly complex or time-consuming. Therefore, the installation of these replacement auto parts is not a substantial transformation and the consumer who brings his or her car into a garage is the ultimate purchaser of the imported auto part.

In HQ 722727 (October 21, 1983), Customs ruled that various replacement automotive parts individually wrapped in containers which bear the proper country of origin marking and part number and which will reach the ultimate purchaser in these containers was excepted from individual marking by the exception set forth at 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D). This provision excepts from marking articles for which the marking of the container reasonably indicates the country of origin of the article. If it is the ultimate purchaser who will receive the part in the closed cardboard box, the part itself is not required to be marked pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR 134.32(d) as long as the box is properly marked. This would govern in a situation where a car owner orders the part directly from the manufacturer or purchases the part in its box from an auto parts store. If however, the mechanic is the one who ordered the part, the part is not entitled to the 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) exception because the mechanic is not the ultimate purchaser.

Although the imported auto parts which do not generally reach the ultimate purchaser in their box are not technically entitled to the 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) exception, this case presents a unique situation because often the consumer, who is the ultimate purchaser, has the mechanic install the parts. The parts are not visible once installed into the car and the consumer either never sees the actual part or sees it only after it is no longer functional and has been removed from the car. Since the intent of the marking statute, discussed infra, is to enable consumers to make informed buying choices, in this case, marking the sealed box in a legible and conspicuous manner is the best way in which to inform the consumer of the country of origin of the part. If the consumer is concerned about the country of origin, he or she can ask to see the box before purchasing the part and requesting the installation. Because each part is imported in its own sealed box which identifies the part number, we conclude that the part will remain in the box until installation. Therefore, marking the country of origin of the imported auto part in a permanent, conspicuous and legible manner on the sealed box in which the auto part is contained satisfies the requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134. In this case, the eight parts described which are contained in boxes would all satisfy these requirements. The small sealed plastic envelope which contains 12 small black pieces is also excepted from individual country of origin marking. It is sealed, it is properly marked with the country of origin in red lettering which is legible, permanent, and can be easily found and read without strain in accordance with 19 CFR 134.41. The ultimate purchaser would receive it in the sealed plastic envelope.

The piece of rubber weatherstripping is marked with a string tag which bears the country of origin on both sides. Section 134.44(c), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.44(c)), provides that when articles are marked with tags, they must be attached in a conspicuous place and in a manner which assures that unless deliberately removed they will remain on the article until it reaches the ultimate purchaser. This string is attached to the weatherstripping at a corner, which is a prominent location. However, the tag is not tied to the weatherstripping; the tag is merely slipped through the string. This manner of attachment is not permanent enough to assure that the tag will remain on the weatherstripping. As long as the tag is tied to the weatherstripping or otherwise attached in a more permanent manner, it satisfies the requirements of 19 CFR 134.44(c).


The various imported automotive parts submitted which are contained in closed cardboard boxes or a sealed plastic envelope which are properly marked with the country of origin of the part satisfy the requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134. The weatherstripping is properly marked as long as the tag is tied to it or otherwise attached in a permanent manner.


Marvin M. Amernick
Chief, Value, Special Programs
and Admissibility Branch