Harley-Davidson Fined $15 Million for Emissions Violations

Environmental Protection Agency knocks America's favorite motorcycle manufacturer.

John Phillips/UK Press via Getty

America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer has been fined $15 million for violating the Clean Air Act. Harley-Davidson agreed to terms Thursday, according to the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency. The Milwaukee-based company did not admit to any wrongdoing, but accepted liability, calling the settlement a “good faith compromise.”

The violations stem from Harley's sale and installation of its so-called Pro Super Tuner. The factory upgrade part increases fuel flow for more horsepower, working in conjunction with other aftermarket bits, like free-flow exhausts. Since 2008, the government says, the part has caused 340,000 motorcycles to pollute at levels higher than originally certified by the EPA.

The sum of the settlement is divided into two parts. The EPA will receive $12 million as a civil penalty. The other $3 million will go to “a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities.” Harley will also cease production and sales of the Pro Super Tuner before August 23.

It’s an interesting case. Unlike Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheat, Harley didn’t deceive its customers; the company sold the device as off-road equipment, warned it could void the warranty, and disclosed potential emissions consequences. But Harley engineered the part, and was advertising, selling, and installing Pro Super Tuner in-house, right off the showroom floor. Essentially having one bike certified by the EPA, then selling a hotter, uncertified variant via loophole.

As part of the settlement agreement, Harley will also buy back surplus Pro Super Tuner stock from dealers, and destroy all remaining units. Cheap wallet chains, branded denim jackets and studded saddlebags will, unfortunately, continue to be sold as before.