Hosun Yoon
Cheomdan Industry 3, Masanhappo-gu
Changwon-si, Gyungsangnam-do, 631-280
South Korea

RE: Tariff classification of head-up display

Dear Mr. Yoon,

This is in response to your request on behalf of Denso Korea Corporation (“Denso”), dated May 15, 2019, pertaining to the classification of a head-up display (“HUD”) under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”). In reaching the below determination, we have considered information presented with your ruling request and supplemental information provided by email on May 28, 2020.


Denso intends to import a HUD, which will be installed in automobiles to allow the driver to view real-time information without looking away from the road. The HUD is designed to display information such as vehicle speed, safety warnings, turn-by-burn directions, and audio settings. The HUD assembly is designed to be installed in the dashboard of an automobile, behind the steering wheel, and consists of a circuit assembly, a 1.8-inch thin film transistor liquid crystal display (“TFT LCD”) screen, a flat mirror, and a concave mirror. The circuit assembly is comprised of a graphics controller integrated circuit (“IC”), and a microprocessor unit (“MPU”). The graphics controller IC and the MPU receive data from the automobile’s Controller Area Network (“CAN”) Systems and process that data into graphics displayed on the TFT LCD screen. The Chassis CAN provides data related to the vehicle’s operation, such as speed, a lane departure warnings, and a low fuel warning. The MultiMedia CAN provides information related to navigation and the vehicle’s audio-visual systems, such as the radio.

The image displayed on the TFT LCD screen is reflected first on the flat mirror, and subsequently magnified and reflected onto the windshield of the vehicle by the concave mirror. The image reflected onto the windshield is designed to appear as if it were located 2.2. meters ahead, allowing the driver to view the information without looking away from the road. The diagram below shows the arrangement of the HUD assembly, including the TFT LCD screen (1), the flat mirror (2), the concave mirror (3), the windshield of the vehicle (4) and the image as viewed by the driver (6).


Is the HUD properly classified as an “image projector” of heading 9008, HTSUS, or as a “visual signaling apparatus” of heading 8531, HTSUS?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) and any applicable legal notes. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs 2 through 6 may then be applied in order.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration in the instant case are as follows:

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:

9008 Image projectors, other than cinematographic; photographic (other than cinematographic) enlargers and reducers; parts and accessories thereof:

Note 1(m) to Section XVI, HTSUS, which includes Chapter 85, provides that Section XVI does not cover articles of Chapter 90.

In addition, Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation (AUSR) 1(a), HTSUS, provides that:

In the absence of special language or context which otherwise requires--

(a) a tariff classification controlled by use (other than actual use) is to be determined in accordance with the use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong, and the controlling use is the principal use… The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (“ENs”) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN 90.08 describes several devices considered “projectors” of heading 9008, HTSUS, as follows:

[T]he projection lantern (or diascope) … is used to project the image of a transparent object (slide or transparency)…

The episcope is an image projector designed to throw on to a screen an enlarged image of a brightly illuminated opaque object…

The epidiascope is a projector which can be used either as a diascope or as an episcope.

The heading includes slide projectors and other still image projectors as used in schools, lecture rooms, etc.; spectrum projectors; instruments for projecting radiographs; magnifying microfilm, microfiche or other microform readers, whether or not subsidiarily used for photocopying these documents; and the projection apparatus used in the preparation of printing plates or cylinders.   The heading also includes projectors incorporating a small screen on which an enlarged image of the slide is projected.

EN 85.31 notes that heading 8531, HTSUS, includes “indicator panels and the like,” and describes these devices as follows:

(D) Indicator panels and the like. These are used (e.g., in offices, hotels and factories) for calling personnel, indicating where a certain person or service is required, indicating whether a room is free or not. They include:

(1) Room indicators. These are large panels with numbers corresponding to a number of rooms. When a button is pressed in the room concerned the corresponding number is either lit up or exposed by the falling away of a shutter or flap.

(2) Number indicators. The signals appear as illuminated figures on the face of a small box; in some apparatus of this kind the calling mechanism is operated by the dial of a telephone. Also clock type indicators in which the numbers are indicated by a hand moving round a dial.

(3) Office indicators, for example, those used to indicate whether the occupant of a particular office is free or not. Some types are merely a simple “come in” or “engaged” sign illuminated at will by the occupant of the office.

(4) Lift indicators. These indicate, on an illuminated board, where the lift is and whether it is going up or down.

(5) Engine room telegraph apparatus for ships.

(6) Station indicating panels for showing the times and platforms of trains.

(7) Indicators for race courses, football stadiums, bowling alleys, etc.

Because Note 1(m) to Section XVI excludes articles of Chapter 90 from classification in Chapter 85, we begin our analysis by considering heading 9008, HTSUS. Denso has argued that the HUD is properly classified as a projector of 9008, HTSUS, and has cited to classification decisions from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and South Korea in support of this classification. We note, as an initial matter, that CBP is not bound by decisions issued by other governments. A foreign classification ruling is merely instructive of how others may classify like goods, and does not bind classification upon importation into the United States. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989); HQ 960428, dated December 15, 1997; and HQ W968379, dated January 25, 2007. Each of the projectors described in the EN to heading 9008 utilizes mirrors or lenses to project and enlarge an image. We acknowledge that the flat and concave mirrors in the HUD accomplish this function, projecting and enlarging the image displayed on the TFT LCD screen onto the windshield of the car. However, the mirrors are not the only components of the HUD, and the HUD as a whole is significantly more complex than the projectors considered in the EN. Unlike the projectors described in the EN, the HUD contains a graphics controller IC, an MPU, and a TFT LCD screen. These components process data from two CAN systems to create the image that is ultimately projected and enlarged by the mirrors within the HUD. The HUD does more than merely project an image; it also creates the image to be projected. The HUD is therefore beyond the scope of heading 9008, HTSUS.

We next consider whether the HUD is classified as visual signaling apparatus of heading 8531, HTSUS. Heading 8531, HTSUS, is a “principal use provision” subject to AUSR 1(a), which requires that the tariff classification “be determined in accordance with the use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong….” In Optrex America Inc. v. United States, the court considered the application of heading 8531, HTSUS, to simple LCDs, stating that, “[t]o be classifiable as an indicator panel incorporating a liquid crystal device under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, the articles must belong to the class or kind of merchandise that is principally used to display limited information that is easily understood by the person viewing it.” 427 F. Supp. 2d 1177, 1198 (Ct. Int’l Trade 2006), aff’d 475 F.3d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

CBP has classified LCDs that are limited by design and/or principal use to “signaling” in heading 8531, HTSUS. For example, in HQ H049555 (April 13, 2009), CBP classified LCD modules intended for use in automobiles as radio/message displays in heading 8531, HTSUS. These LCD modules used segment-style characters and permanently etched icons to communicate limited information in a fashion easily understood by the driver of the automobile. The information conveyed by the LCD modules included the time, velocity in miles per hour, climate control, compass, music controls, and Bluetooth connection status. CBP determined that these modules were operationally limited to performing signaling functions akin to those performed by the products listed in the ENs to heading 8531. Similarly, in NY N306705 (October 31, 2019), CBP classified LCD indicator panels for automobiles in heading 8531, HTSUS. The panels used both segment style characters and fixed icons to indicate things like the amount of fuel remaining in the tank, driving distance, the time, audio output, external temperature and revolutions per minute (RPM). Likewise, in HQ H026661 (July 8, 2008), CBP classified an LCD display for auto/marine/industrial applications in heading 8531, HTSUS. The LCD displays could be programmed to display the information desired for the particular context in which the panel would be used by application of software. For example, the LCD displays could be programmed to display RPM, temperature, speed and fuel tank level. The LCD displays presented “limited indication information that is easily understood by the user” and CBP noted that these functions are “akin to those performed by the indicator panels enumerated in the ENs to heading 8531, HTSUS.” Therefore, the ruling placed the LCD displays in heading 8531, HTSUS. See also HQ H003880, dated March 27, 2007.

As in the rulings above, we have determined that the HUD is limited by design and principal use to “signaling,” and it is properly classified in heading 8531, HTSUS. The HUD is designed to provide limited, easily understood information to the driver in a location that does not require the driver to avert their eyes from the road ahead. Although the TFT LCD does not have permanently etched icons or segment-style characters, the screen utilizes similarly simplistic icons and numbers, always appearing in the same place on the screen, to convey information to the driver. For example, turn-by-turn directions are displayed using directional arrows to indicate the next turn, and numbers to indicate the distance to that turn. Similarly, safety warnings such as the lane departure warning and the blind spot warning are displayed as simple icons. The digital speedometer gives the speed of travel in the center of the image. The limited information provided by the HUD meets the standard set by the court in Optrex, and is analogous to the information provided by the LCDs considered in previous rulings.

However, the HUD does differ from the LCDs considered by the court in Optrex and in prior CBP rulings, in that the driver views a projection of the TFT LCD, as reflected by the mirrors in the HUD assembly, rather than the LCD itself. As a result, though the HUD performs a function analogous to the “indicator panels” considered in the Optrex decision, and prior CBP rulings, the HUD is not an “indicator panel.” Rather, the HUD is a signaling device that performs a function similar to that of an indicator panel, and is properly classified in subheading 8531.80.90, which provides for “[e]lectric 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: Other apparatus: Other.” HOLDING:

By application of GRI 1, AUSR 1(a), and GRI 6, the HUD is classified in heading 8531, HTSUS, specifically in subheading 8531.80.90, which provides for “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: Other apparatus: Other.” The 2020 column one, general rate of duty for merchandise of subheading 8531.80.90, HTSUS, is free.

Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the internet at A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time the goods are entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the CBP officer handling the transaction.


Gregory Connor, Chief
Electronics, Manufacturing, Automotive, and International Nomenclature Branch