Apparently, America's renascent no-nonsense SUV class is set to grow by one, thanks to a new NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) ruling. Miami-based Cross Lander USA has been given an exemption for its Brazilian-assembled offering which will enable it to (finally) ply its non-airbag equipped vehicle on U.S. shores.

The exemption from the airbag requirement arrives courtesy ye olde 'economic hardship' clause, which affords cash-strapped automakers the chance to circumvent the law temporarily because they might go belly-up without it. After finding this to be the case with Cross Lander (which says it lost some $5 million in 2004), NHTSA issued an exemption good through May of 2008, provided the company slaps a caveat emptor sticker on U.S.-bound examples.

NHTSA estimates that if 9,000 244X's change hands, the automaker will have enough money to fit airbags by the exemption's end date. We're willing to bet not one of 'em goes to a Public Citizen member.

[Associated Press via Orlando Sentinel]

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