Monday, October 17, 2016

the EPA sued Harley-Davidson for selling a product that gave riders the ability to modify their bike’s emissions for higher performance, but would then fail smog levels, selling a tuner that allowed illegal modifications to be done by bike owners - at their own discretion. And Harley-Davidson didn’t fight it; they folded

The second, main focus of the suit was on Harley-Davidson’s sale of approximately 340,000 Screamin' Eagle Pro Super Tuners, a tuning module that allowed users to modify EFI programming to suit aftermarket modifications for proper fueling and to create better performance, which has the side effect of modifying emissions in ways that can end up outside of federal clean air standards.

“Given Harley-Davidson’s prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities. Anyone else who manufactures, sells, or installs these types of illegal products should take heed of Harley-Davidson’s corrective actions and immediately stop violating the law.”

 The Justice Department’s statement is telling in multiple ways.

First, saying “given Harley-Davidson’s prominence in the industry” seems to hint that Harley-Davidson was singled out for a case like this to be made an example out of before the rest of the motorcycle industry; particularly those who manufacture performance exhaust parts and tuning modules.

 Describing the tuning modules as “illegal aftermarket defeat devices” presumes them and their use to be inherently illegal, regardless of how they are used (even off-road and in racing, where they are intended to be used by manufacturers.)

 The beginning of the closing sentence, “anyone else who manufactures, sells, or installs these types of illegal products” reads like a thinly veiled threat to every OEM and aftermarket manufacturer of any part or device that affects emissions; and suggesting they “should take heed of Harley-Davidson’s corrective actions” is all but proof that the EPA and the Justice Department used Harley-Davidson to make an example out of, and to scare the rest of the industry into submission.

If the Justice Department means what it said, the government is not only holding the manufacturers of these tuners liable for potentially illegal use by end users, but that it aims to shut the entire “illegal” industry down as a whole.

This story is about a lot more than Harley-Davidson getting fined for pushing the boundaries with its aftermarket parts.

 It means that not only can companies now be held liable for the unproven, potential misuse of their devices, but that the government has managed to bend the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the nation to their will.


  1. Selling exhaust systems for Eletra Glides with a 'for offroad use only' note on them is pretty ridiculous to begin with. H-D knows damn well that their 1,000+ lbs. touring barges are only going offroad when crashing. I'm all for nice sounding Harleys (1985 dB levels fine with me, drag pipes setting off car alarms at 3 a.m. aren't), but I want clean air too. Just like VW, H-D had this one coming for a long time, and if it wasn't for the Germans getting caught with their pants down, I doubt the government had dared touch the Milwaukee icon.

    1. Good point about VW. But I think hammering the company that makes a tool for making off road and racing more effective, and calling it illegal, is baloney, and HD should have taken a stand. They, well, no one yet, is guilty of a damn thing that polluted the air, so rolling over and showing their belly was a cowardly thing to do

  2. Offroading or racing a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide? C'mon....

    As it is, a company cannot be held responsible for what customers use its products for, as long as the company slaps even a slightly non-sensical warning on it. But H-D dealerships sold & modified their product, so they would not comply with existing laws, which after decades of being done finally got the Feds' attention.

    If a company makes products that make offroading and racing more effective, then all the luck to them. Just don't break the friggin' law doing it, but use skill and ingenuity to make a better product.

  3. Many other vehicle OEMs do this. Had was unique in how little they did to conceal that these bikes would be on the street.

    I am aware of at least one OEM that makes you prove that you are/have entered the vehicle into competition before they will sell to you. It would be easy for HD to require their customers to show an AMA membership so they could at least feign ignorance.