Harley-Davidson, EPA reach settlement

Motorcycle manufacturer agrees to pay $12 million civil penalty

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.'s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Harley-Davidson, Inc. has agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty, will stop selling a device used to calibrate motorcycles and has agreed to buy back and destroy all of the existing devices that have already been manufactured.

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.’s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Under a settlement announced Thursday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Milwaukee-based company will also spend $3 million on a project to mitigate air pollution through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities.

“This settlement is not an admission of liability but instead represents 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,” Ed Moreland, Harley-Davidson’s government affairs director, said in a statement.

“For more than two decades, we have sold this product under an accepted regulatory approach that permitted the sale of competition-only parts,” Moreland said. “In our view, it is and was legal to use in race conditions in the U.S.”

The EPA alleges that Harley-Davidson violated the Clean Air Act by manufacturing and selling about 340,000 devices, known as tuners, that allow users to change how a motorcycle’s engine functions. These changes can cause the motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than they would in the original configuration that Harley-Davidson certified with EPA.

Harley-Davidson also manufactured and sold more than 12,000 motorcycles that EPA alleges did not undergo proper EPA certification to ensure they meet federal clean air standards.

Under the settlement, Harley-Davidson will immediately stop selling the tuners, buy back all of the tuners in stock at their dealerships and destroy the tuners.

The company has also agreed to obtain certification from the California Air Resources Board for any tuners it sells in the future. These certifications will demonstrate that new tuners do not cause their motorcycles to exceed their certified emissions limits. Harley-Davidson will also conduct tests on tuner-equipped motorcycles and provide the results to the EPA to guarantee that their motorcycles remain in compliance with EPA certification requirements for emissions.

Harley-Davidson will also ensure that all of its future motorcycle models intended for sale in the United States are fully certified by EPA.

Since January 2008, Harley-Davidson has manufactured and sold two types of tuners, which when hooked up to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, allow users to modify certain aspects of a motorcycles’ emissions control system.

These modified settings increase power and performance, but also increase the motorcycles’ emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Exposure to ozone and particulate matter pollution has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

“Concern for our U.S. customers and dealers weighed heavily in reaching this compromise with the EPA,” said Moreland. “By settling this matter, we can focus our future attention and resources on product innovation rather than a prolonged legal battle with the EPA.”

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