EPA Makes Public Example of Harley-Davidson “Defeat Device” Sales In Wake of VW Emissions Scandal

Harley- Davidson has accepted a $12-million slap on the wrist from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over purported “defeat device” sales for its motorcycles.

The news comes as the much-bigger dust cloud is settling from the Volkswagen diesel scandal which has cost VW AG billions with global recalls, and which has prompted regulators around the world to probe deeper into other companies’ doings.

“Given Harley-Davidson’s prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the sale of illegal after-market defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities,” said John Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s environmental and natural resources division.

The implications of H-D’S agreement with authorities for other companies is not yet clear, but prominent and profitable Harley-Davidson was made an example of over what has widely been a gray area in regulatory enforcement.

At issue with the H-D case is a civil settlement – in which Harley-Davidson admitted no wrong in a “good faith compromise” – has mainly to do with aftermarket parts purportedly for racing and off-road use only.

These components – 340,000 “Screamin’ Eagle” tuning kits sold since 2008 permitting higher than allowable emissions – were the test case with which the EPA made an example of H-D, along with more than 12,600 motorcycles not covered by an EPA certification.

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen’s Diesel Scandal Could Bring Positive Changes To the Automotive Industry

Harley-Davidson was required by the EPA to stop selling its super tuners by Aug. 23 which allow increased power and performance at the expense of fuel economy and emissions. H-D is to spend an additional $3 million on an unrelated project to curb air pollution. Motorcycles generally have fewer emissions controls than automobiles and trucks.

Otherwise, for vehicles of the two- and four-wheel variety, the disclaimer of “off-road use only” or for “racing only” stamped on performance parts including tuning accessories and exhaust systems has for decades been a point of mixed enforcement. In cases, consumers have been known to install components on cars, trucks, or motorcycles intended for road use with a wink and a nod if they feel enforcement will not likely be applied to them.

In targeting Harley-Davidson, the Justice Department and EPA indicated it is on the look-out by going after the American brand which “enjoys prominence in the industry, calling this a “very significant step” in closing perceived loopholes that threaten illegal emissions.

“This settlement immediately stops the sale of illegal after-market defeat devices used on public roads that threaten the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Whether federal authorities are investigating anyone else in the multi-billion aftermarket tuning industry for motorcycles or cars and trucks was of course not stated.

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