In a surprising reversal, the Environmental Protection Agency has amended an earlier ruling on so-called "super tuner" devices. The EPA has absolved Harley-Davidson of selling emissions control-defeating devices, and confirmed that the Milwaukee firm (NYSE: HOG) will not have to pay $15 million in fines and restitution.
When the EPA singled out Harley-Davidson, we at first thought that the company was abusing the "off-road only", "competition only" exemption that has long existed for aftermarket ECUs. However, after a meeting between the Justice Department's John C. Cruden and Harley-Davidson's John Moreland, we realized that we were targeting the wrong motorcyclists.
We thought that since Harley-Davidson dealers were installing these aftermarket "super tuners" on motorcycles licensed and insured for road use, that it was a clear violation of the "off-road" and "competition" exemption. We didn't realize that virtually all Harleys really are off-road vehicles, in the sense that they travel above the road on trailers. And of course, most of the owners are engaged in an ego-driven money spending contest.
It was our mistake; we thought people were actually riding those things, and we're sorry for any confusion we may have caused.
We contacted Steven Pirner, of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for a comment.
"The EPA should've asked us," Pirner said. "We'd have told them that hundreds of thousands of Harley-Davidsons have no measurable impact on air quality at Sturgis, because almost all of them are only ridden a few hundred yards from the campground to the Buffalo Chip."
"Frankly, we're a lot more worried about pending legislation that will force motorcycles to conform to noise guidelines," Pirner added. "We typically have about 50 serious injuries and 10 fatalities a year around the Sturgis event. Considering how many lives are saved by loud pipes, there'd be carnage if motorcyclists were limited to EPA-approved exhausts."
"This doesn't mean other aftermarket ECUs and tuners are off the hook," Rowan told our reporter. "But let's face it, if you install a Power Commander on your Gixxer, there's at least a chance you really are going to use in competition. I mean, from what I see almost all sport bike riders are competing with their friends, to see who'll be the first to win a Darwin Award."