Approximately 100000 motorcycle enthusiasts attended Harley Davidson39s 110th anniversary celebration on Aug 29 2013 in Milwaukee The company reached a multimillion dollar settlement with EPA regarding super tuners that allow its motorcycles to emit higher levels of air pollutants than allowed by the Clean Air Act Scott Olson/Getty Images

Approximately 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts attended Harley Davidson's 110th anniversary celebration on Aug. 29, 2013 in Milwaukee. The company reached a multi-million dollar settlement with EPA regarding super tuners that allow its motorcycles to emit higher levels of air pollutants than allowed by the Clean Air Act.

Harley-Davidson to Stop Sales of Super Tuners that Increased Air Pollution

Harley-Davidson has agreed to buy back unused super tuners and to stop selling super tuners that caused its motorcycles to emit higher amounts of air pollutants than allowed by EPA.

While it’s not at the level of Volkswagengate emissions tampering, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement this month with Harley-Davidson Inc., Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, LLC, Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Co. Inc., and Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Operations Inc. (collectively Harley-Davidson), that requires the companies to stop selling and to buy back and destroy unused illegal devices from dealers. 

The EPA found the devices increase air pollution from Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The agency discovered the violations through a routine inspection and information Harley-Davidson submitted after subsequent agency information requests.

The company has agreed to sell only models of these devices that are certified to meet Clean Air Act emissions standards. Harley-Davidson also will pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities. 

“This settlement immediately stops the sale of illegal aftermarket 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. “Harley-Davidson is taking important steps to buy back the ‘super tuners’ from their dealers and destroy them, while funding projects to mitigate the pollution they caused.”

The government’s complaint, filed August 18 along with the settlement, alleges that Harley-Davidson manufactured and sold approximately 340,000 illegal devices, known as super tuners, that, once installed, caused motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than what the company certified to EPA. Aftermarket defeat devices like these super tuners alter a motor vehicle’s emissions controls and are prohibited under the Clean Air Act for use on vehicles that have been certified to meet EPA emissions standards. Harley-Davidson also made and sold more than 12,000 motorcycles between 2006 and 2008 that were not covered by an EPA certification that ensures a vehicle meets federal clean air standards.

“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, head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “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 company responded, noting that the tuner was designed and sold as an aftermarket, competition-only product used to adapt engine parameters for use with Harley-Davidson aftermarket equipment. ​Harley-Davidson said they have safeguards in place to educate dealers and customers on the implications of installing Harley-Davidson performance products on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including clear product labeling of competition-only products and detail on what performance enhancements are considered street legal and for competition-use only and the legal consequences of tampering with emission controls and components that would void the vehicle warranty.


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 motorcycle’s emissions control system. These modified settings increase power and performance, but also increase the motorcycles’ emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These tuners have been sold at Harley-Davidson dealerships across the country.


The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires motor vehicle manufacturers to certify to EPA that their vehicles will meet applicable federal emissions standards to control air pollution, and every motor vehicle sold in the U.S. must be covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. The act prohibits manufacturers from making and selling devices that bypass, defeat or render inoperative a motor vehicle’s EPA-certified emissions control system. The CAA also prohibits any person from removing or rendering inoperative a motor vehicle’s certified emissions control system and from causing such tampering. The complaint alleges violations of both these provisions.

Under the settlement, Harley-Davidson will stop selling the illegal aftermarket defeat devices in the United States by August 23. Harley-Davidson also will offer to buy back all such tuners in stock at Harley-Davidson dealerships across the country and destroy them. The company will not be purchased already used or installed products.

“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,” said Ed Moreland, Harley-Davidson’s government affairs director 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. In our view, it is and was legal to use in race conditions in the U.S.”

The settlement, a proposed consent decree lodged in the United Stated District Court for the District of Columbia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it can be entered by the court as final judgment.

TAGS: Environment
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