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Harley-Davidson Has to Stop Selling a Pollution-Causing Device and Pay $15 Million

Now less smoggy.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Thursday the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that famed motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has agreed to pay a $12 million civil fine after selling illegal after-market devices, called super tuners, that increased vehicles’ emissions. The settlement also requires that Harley-Davidson pay $3 million in a deal with the EPA to help mitigate air pollution caused by the super tuners, buy them back from its dealers, and destroy them.

According to the government, since 2008 Harley-Davidson has manufactured and sold about 340,000 Screamin’ Eagle Pro Super Tuners, which allow users to modify their motorcycle’s emission control system and increase power and performance. Officials claim that these tuners allow riders to violate the Clean Air Act because of the higher emissions that resulted.

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Although the Milwaukee-based company has settled the case, it maintains that it was not in the wrong. According to Ed Moreland, Harley-Davidson’s government affairs director, “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. 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.”

Although the company says it sold the product to be used in race conditions and not on public roads, nothing prevented riders’ from using their modded bikes wherever they wanted. Moving forward, the company plans to sell a different model of the device that is designed to comply with clean air standards. In the meantime, the $3 million for the EPA will go to a project to replace conventional woodstoves with a cleaner option.

So how much will this sting for Harley? Fifteen million dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but keep in mind that Harley, which has a market capitalization of more than $9 billion, sold 340,000 of those super tuners, which are currently listed for $459.95. Right after news of the settlement emerged Thursday morning, the company’s shares dove 7 percent. By noon they were down only by 2 percent.

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