Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Harley Agrees to Stop Selling Emission-Defeat Devices

  • Motorcycle maker violated Clean Air Act, U.S. complaint says
  • Suit targets hog’s ‘Screamin’ Eagle’ aftermarket power tuner

Harley-Davidson Inc. has agreed to stop selling, buy back and destroy aftermarket engine tuners that the U.S. called emissions-control defeat devices.

The Milwaukee-based company also agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty as part of a settlement with the U.S. after being accused of violating air-pollution laws by selling the “Screamin’ Eagle” engine tuners. Harley sold more than 339,000 of them from 2008 to 2015, according to a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Washington.

Harley is also required to sell only devices that comply with Clean Air Act emission standards. It will contribute another $3 million to mitigate air pollution under its deal with the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

“Given Harley-Davidson’s prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities," said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, in a statement.

Harley disputed the government’s claim that by selling its tuner through its dealer network, it enabled dealers and customers to tamper with motorcycles used on public roads. The company said the tuner was designed and sold for off-road and closed-course competition.

“This settlement is not an admission of liability but instead represents a good faith compromise with the E.P.A. on areas of law we interpret differently, particularly E.P.A’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,” said Ed Moreland, Harley’s government affairs director, in a statement.

Shares fell almost 8 percent on news of the lawsuit and were down 1.6 percent at 11:41 a.m. in New York.

The U.S. claims Harley manufactured and sold the so-called super-tuners devices that caused motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than what the company certified to the government. Such devices alter emissions controls and are prohibited under the Clean Air Act on vehicles that have been certified to meet E.P.A. emission standards, the U.S. said.

The case is U.S. v. Harley-Davidson Inc., 16-cv-1687, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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