CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 962928 AML
Mr. Kevin Connolly
2891 Langstaff Road
Canada L4K 4Z2
Re: Starter solenoids for internal combustion engines; NYs C82399 and A85758;
Dear Mr. Connelly:
This is in regard to your letter, dated June 18, 1999, requesting the classification of starter solenoids for internal combustion engines under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). In response to an Entry Summary Rejection dated March 18, 1999, issued to you by Customs, Buffalo, New York, you further requested that Customs address an apparent conflict among two New York Ruling Letters (NYs): NYs C82399 dated December 19, 1997 and A85758 dated August 14, 1996 and ruling DD847708 dated December 15, 1989, issued by Customs in Hidalgo, Texas. Photocopies and a technical description were forwarded for examination. We regret the delay.
The article, a starter solenoid switch, is an electromechanical device that electrically opens and closes the starter switch and mechanically engages and disengages the starter drive gear of the starter motor of an internal combustion engine.
Whether the article should be classified under subheading 8505.90.80, HTSUS, which provides for electromagnets; under subheading 8511.80.60, HTSUS, as electrical ignition or starting equipment of a kind used for spark-ignition or compression engine internal combustion engine, other equipment, other; or subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, as other electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of imported merchandise is accomplished pursuant to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Classification under the HTSUS is guided by the General Rules of Interpretation of the Harmonized System (GRI's). GRI 1, HTSUS, 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[.]”
The HTSUS headings and subheadings under consideration are as follows:
8505 Electromagnets; permanent magnets and articles
intended to become permanent magnets after
magnetization; electromagnetic or permanent
magnet chucks, clamps and similar holding
devices; electromagnetic couplings, clutches
and brakes; electromagnetic lifting heads;
Permanent magnets and articles intended to
become permanent magnets after magnetization:
8505.90 Other, including parts:
* * *
8511 Electrical ignition or starting equipment of a
kind used for spark-ignition or compression-
ignition internal combustion engines (for
example, ignition magnetos, magneto-dynamos,
ignition coils, spark plugs and glow plugs,
starter motors); generators (for example,
dynamos, alternators) and cut-outs of a kind
used in conjunction with such engines;
8511.80 Other equipment:
* * *
8536 Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting
electrical circuits, or for making connections to
or in electrical circuits (for example, switches,
relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets,
lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not
exceeding 1,000 V:
8536.90 Other apparatus:
When interpreting and implementing the HTSUS, the Explanatory Notes (ENs) of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized. The ENs, while neither legally binding nor dispositive, provide a guiding commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See, T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
The starter solenoids for internal combustion engines are clearly classifiable in Chapter 85, which provides for, inter alia, electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof. Section XVI (in which Chapter 85 is found), note 2, HTSUS, states that:
[s]ubject to note 1 to this section, note 1 to chapter 84
and to note 1 to chapter 85, parts of machines (not being
parts of the articles of heading 8484, 8544, 8545, 8546 or
8547) are to be classified according to the following
(a) Parts which are goods included in any of the headings
of chapters 84 and 85 (other than headings 8485 and
8548) are in all cases to be classified in their
(b) Other parts, if suitable for use solely or principally
with a particular kind of machine, or with a number of
machines of the same heading (including a machine of
heading 8479 or 8543) are to be classified with the
machines of that kind. However, parts which are equally
suitable for use principally with the goods of headings
8517 and 8525 to 8528 are to be classified in heading
(c) All other parts are to be classified in heading 8485 or
Subject to certain exceptions not relevant here, goods that are identifiable parts of machines or apparatus of Chapter 84 or Chapter 85 are classifiable in accordance with Section XVI, Note 2, HTSUS. Nidec Corporation v. United States, 861 F. Supp. 136, aff'd, 68 F. 3d 1333 (1995). Parts, which are goods included in any of the headings of Chapters 84 and 85, are in all cases to be classified in their respective headings. See Note 2(a). Other parts, if suitable for use solely or principally with a particular machine, or with a number of machines of the same heading, are to be classified with the machines of that kind. See Note 2(b).
You allege that the articles in question are parts that are suitable for use solely or principally with a particular kind of machine: a starter motor for an internal combustion, automobile engine. Therefore, in accordance with the section note, we must determine whether the articles are classifiable as electromagnets, as parts of a starter motor or as electrical switches.
“Solenoid” is not defined in the HTSUS or the ENs. A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the ENs is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning. Nippon Kogaku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F.2d 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F.2d 1268 (1982).
The HTSUS, which went into effect January 1, 1989, is a relatively new tariff system with rules of interpretation and application somewhat different from the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), the predecessor to the HTSUS. As noted in House Conference Report No. 100-576, dated April 20, 1998, on the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-418), decisions by the Customs Service and the courts interpreting nomenclature under the TSUS are not to be deemed dispositive in interpreting the HTSUS. Nevertheless, on a case-by-case basis, prior decisions should be considered instructive in interpreting the HTSUS, particularly where the nomenclature previously interpreted in those decisions remains unchanged and no dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTSUS.
In Robert Bosch Corp. v. U.S., 63 Cust. Ct. 96, 104 (1969) , the court was called upon to decide the proper classification of, inter alia, starter solenoid switches. Customs had classified the articles as "electrical switches, relays * * *, and other electrical apparatus for making or breaking electrical circuits," a use provision. The importer claimed that the starter solenoid switches were more properly classifiable as "ignition magnetos * * * and other electrical starting and ignition equipment for internal combustion engines * * *; all the foregoing and parts thereof," another unlimited eo nomine provision. With regard to the starter solenoid switches, the court found that they were designed to and in fact did function both mechanically and electrically, i.e., the electrical "switching" of the device caused the mechanical propulsion and retraction of a shaft that meshed with the starter motor, thus enabling the automobile to be started "electrically" with an ignition key rather than simply mechanically with, e.g., a crank. Finding thusly, the court stated, "the principle is well settled that where an article is in character or function something other than as described by a specific statutory provision - either more limited or more diversified - and the difference is significant, it cannot find classification within such provision." Bosch, supra, at 103-104. The court held that the starter solenoid switches were not electrical switches, but other electrical starting and ignition equipment for internal combustion engines.
In this case both the merchandise and the nomenclature of the tariff provisions lend themselves to similar interpretations under both tariff systems, the TSUS and the HTSUS.
We first address possible classification in headings 8505 and 8536, HTSUS, because if the solenoid can be considered to be either and electromagnet or electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, pursuant to Section XVI, Note 2(a), the article must be classified in either of those provisions.
The technical literature provided in your submission describes a solenoid as:
an electromagnetic device that performs an electrical switching function and also does mechanical work. The distinguishing difference between a solenoid and a relay is that a relay does only the electrical switching function; it does not provide for additional mechanical work to be performed.
Grolier’s Encyclopedia (Grolier’s Electronic Publishing, 1994) describes a solenoid as follows:
A solenoid is an electromechanical device consisting of a coil of wire, usually wound in the form of a long, narrow cylinder, and a core, or plunger, made of a magnetic material such as iron placed partly within the coil. When an electric current passes through the coil of wire, the coil becomes an electromagnet, and a magnetic field is created within it. This field exerts a force on the core that tends to pull it further into the coil. The motion of the core can, in turn, be used to actuate some other device such as a switch or relay.
Under the heading “internal-combustion engines” Grolier’s states:
Internal-combustion engines require some type of starting system. Small engines are generally started by pulling a starting rope or kicking a lever. Larger engines may use compressed air or an electric starting system. The latter includes a starter--a high-torque electric motor--to turn the crankshaft until the engine starts. Starting motors are extremely powerful for their size and are designed to utilize high currents (200 to 300 amperes). The large starting currents can cause a battery to drain rapidly; for this reason a heavy-duty battery is usually used. Interrupting this connection is an electrical switch called a SOLENOID, which is activated by the low-voltage starting switch. In this way the ignition switch can be located away from the starter and yet still turn the starter on and off.
See also, McGraw-Hill Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 1994, “Solenoid (electricity),” describing construction, design and function of solenoids; and Stockel, Stockel and Johanson. Auto Fundamentals. Tinley Park, Illinois: The Goodheart-Willcox Company, Inc., also describing and illustrating the construction, design and function of solenoids.
Based upon these descriptions, definitions and illustrations, we find that solenoids are electromechanical devices that electrically open and close the starter switch and mechanically engage and disengage the starter drive gear of the starter motor of an internal combustion engine. While the electrical function – opening and closing the starter switch – is described by heading 8536, HTSUS, the heading fails to adequately describe the mechanical function of the article. Heading 8536, HTSUS, which provides for electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, describes only one of the functions of a solenoid. Therefore, classification cannot be made in heading 8536, HTSUS.
The EN to heading 8505, HTSUS, provides, in pertinent part:
Subject to the general provisions regarding the classification of parts (see the General Explanatory Note to Section XVI), parts of the goods of this heading are also classified here.
* * *
The heading does not cover:
* * *
(b) Electro-magnets, permanent magnets or magnetic devices of this heading, when presented with machines, apparatus, toys, games, etc., of which they are designed to form part (classified with those machines, apparatus, etc.).
The electromagnet contained in the solenoid performs an ancillary function within the article. When the electrical connection is made, the electromagnet causes the plunger to move, engaging the starter motor and causing it to function. We find that the starter solenoid switches, because of their mechanical function, cannot be classified as electromagnets under heading 8505, HTSUS.
The General ENs to Chapter 84, (c) Parts, although concerned with articles other than those at issue, provide in pertinent part:
Separately presented electrical parts generally fall in one or other of the headings of Chapter 85, for example: . . . electrical starting equipment for internal combustion piston engines (heading 85.11); electrical switches, control panels, plugs, junction boxes, etc. (headings 85.35 to 85.37) . . .. Unless incorporated with other parts of the machine, such goods are classified in those headings, even if designed for use solely or principally with a particular machine of this Chapter.
The General Notes to Chapter 85 provide, in pertinent part:
This Chapter covers:
* * *
(3) Certain machines and appliances which depend for their operation on the properties or effects of electricity, such as its electro-magnetic effects, heating properties, etc. (headings 85.05, 85.11 to 85.18, 85.25 to 85.31 and 85.43).
The General ENs to heading 8511, HTSUS, provides, in pertinent part:
This heading covers electrical starting or ignition equipment and appliances for internal combustion engines of any kind (piston or other types), whether for use in motor cars, aircraft, boats or the like, or for stationary engines. It also covers generators and cut-outs for use in conjunction with such internal combustion engines.
* * *
(F) Starter motors.
These are small electric motors, usually of the DC series wound type. They are fitted with a small pinion capable of travelling up and down a screwed shaft, or with some other mechanical device for coupling them temporarily to the internal combustion engine to be started.
The solenoid is described by the EN to heading 8511 as “some other mechanical device for coupling [starter motors] temporarily to the internal combustion engine to be started.” We find that the solenoid is a part designed and intended for use solely or principally with a particular machine – the starter motor of and internal combustion engine. In accordance with Note 2(a) to Section XVI, because they are “goods included” in heading 8511, HTSUS, the solenoids are classifiable in heading 8511, as electrical ignition or starting equipment of a kind used for spark-ignition or compression ignition internal combustion engines.
You requested that Customs address an apparent conflict among two New York Ruling Letters (NYs): NYs C82399 dated December 19, 1997 and A85758 dated August 14, 1996 and DD847708 dated December 15, 1989, issued by Customs in Hidalgo, Texas.
NY C82399 concerned the classification of an automotive starter solenoid that acted as both an electrical relay and an electromechanical shift lever. Customs believes the article was properly classified in subheading 8511.80.60, HTSUS.
NY A85758 concerned the classification of an automotive starter solenoid that acted as both an electrical relay and an electromechanical shift lever. Photographs of the article are virtually identical to those depicted in the catalogue you provided in your submission. Customs believes the article was properly classified in subheading 8511.80.60, HTSUS.
With regard to DD 847708, which was issued as a pre-classification ruling by Customs in Hidalgo, Texas, we cannot ascertain what type of “starter solenoid switch” was analyzed and classified in subheading 8505.90.80, HTSUS, as magnetic articles. The Pre-Entry Classification Program, which Customs initiated in January of 1989, was designed primarily to benefit importers whose product inventories lend themselves to an item-by-item review. Among the importers’ responsibilities for participation in the program include a complete product listing with proposed tariff classification where possible. Preclassification rulings constitute a contract between the Customs Service and then ruling recipient only with respect to the classification of the specific articles covered in the decision. Preclassification rulings are not full-text rulings issued under the authority of Part 177, Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. Part 177), and are not published or otherwise made available for public inspection. Accordingly, such rulings are not citable as authority in classifying merchandise of the same class or kind. For these reasons, Customs is not bound by DD847708 with respect to the classification of the subject merchandise.
The solenoids are classified under subheading 8511.80.60, HTSUS, as electrical ignition or starting equipment of a kind used for spark-ignition or compression engine internal combustion engine, other equipment, other.
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NYs C82399 dated December 19, 1997 and A85758 dated August 14, 1996 are AFFIRMED, and DD847708 dated December 15, 1989, issued by Customs in Hidalgo, Texas, remains unchanged and of no consequence in classification of starter solenoid switches.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division