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Harley-Davidson Agrees To Pay $12 Million Fine For Sale Of Aftermarket Defeat Devices

As a result of its sale of aftermarket defeat devices to improve performance, and the increased emissions that accompanied the use of these “super tuners,” Harley-Davidson has agreed to pay a $12 million civil fine, the US Justice Department has revealed.

Harley Davidson

The agreed-upon settlement brings to a resolution the US Environmental Protection Agency’s complaints concerning the sale of around 340,000 of the aforementioned “super tuners” since 2008 — which allowed the company’s motorcycles to pollute the air at higher levels than they were certified to do.

While the settlement won’t see the company admit liability, it will see the company cease to sell such products, and to buy back and destroy all of the relevant inventory at brand dealerships.

Interestingly, the settlement also stipulates that Harley-Davidson must deny warranty claims if owners continue using these super tuners. An EPA spokesperson elaborated on this somewhat, noting that while the dealers themselves weren’t yet part of the action, “if they are tampering or selling defeat devices on their own, then they could be investigated independently in the future.”

A further stipulation entails that the company spend $3 million on an unrelated air pollution reduction project, according to the US Justice Department.

A company statement denied culpability, arguing that the super tuners were intended for use only in “competition” rather than everyday travel. The statement noted though that the settlement represented “a good faith compromise with the EPA on areas of law we interpret differently, particularly EPA’s assertion that it is illegal for anyone to modify a certified vehicle even if it will be used solely for off-road/closed-course competition.”

Following the company statement, an EPA spokesperson was quoted as saying that “the vast majority” of the super tuners were used on public roads, rather than just in “competition.”

Reuters provides more, revealing that, “according to the government, the sale of such ‘defeat devices’ violates the federal Clean Air Act. Harley was also accused of selling more than 12,600 motorcycles that were not covered by an EPA certification governing clean air compliance. … EPA said the modified settings increase power and performance, but also increase the motorcycles’ emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.”

Continuing: “Harley must obtain a certification from the California Air Resources Board for any tuners it sells in the United States in the future. For any super tuners that Harley-Davidson sells outside the United States in the future, it must label them as not for use in the United States.”

The head of the US Justice Department’s environmental and natural resources division, John Cruden, commented: “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.”

While the fine in this case is fairly small, the general circumstances match those of the ongoing Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal, and to a lesser degree those of the ongoing Mitsubishi fuel economy fraud scandal.

Speaking for myself here, it’s nice to see some of these sorts of companies get taken to task for some of their shadier practices. And also that highly harmful particulate and nitrogen oxides vehicle emissions will be curtailed somewhat in the future.

Image via Harley-Davidson

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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