Policy Shift Takes Harley Off The Hook for Third-Party "Donation"

I don’t agree with much of what Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands for — no, I’m not going to be more specific, but you’re certainly welcome to read anything into that you like — but I have to give credit where it is due ’cause I think ol’ Jeff got this one right. You see, last year Harley-Davidson got penalized because approximately 12,600 of its customers got caught being a bit naughty by using closed-circuit racing technology to boost performance. These “defeat devices” caused the actual emission output to diverge significantly from the designed parameters. Rather than punishing the individual offenders, The-Powers-That-Be, in their infinite wisdom, decided to punish Harley instead. The EPA browbeat Harley into an agreement that required the Motor Company to pay a tidy $3M “donation” to the American Lung Association to pay for — wait for it — retrofitting woodburning stoves to offset the extra unregulated emissions these legions of supertuners unleashed upon the environment. So what has happened to change that?

Continue reading for more on the lawsuit and settlement.

What’s Happened?

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Because that agreement hasn’t been finalized in front of a judge yet, that ball is still in play, thus making it vulnerable to Sessions’ policy shift that removes third-party entities from the list of those that should benefit from a punitive payment. Sessions believes that only the actual victims of a crime, or those affected by a case should get their hands on that money, so that means the ALA can go pound sand. They ain’t gonna get nothin’. It’s a shame that the manufacturer is being held accountable for what the public does with products they purchased that are clearly labeled not for use on the street, but that’s a rant for another day.

This is sort of in-line with several conservative groups who would rather see the money go to the taxpayers rather than a third-party, but if they had their way, H-D would still have to cough up the funds, just in a different direction. I think I like Sessions’ idea better. Yeah, Harley’s still on the hook for this whole sordid affair to the tune of $12M, and it had to buy back and destroy all the remaining tuners it could get a hold of as well as all remaining stock at a total loss, but at least the Justice Department plans to move forward with the consent agreement without the penalty attached.

How does that affect the Volkswagen settlement? Not at all, as it turns out. Session’s policy would have barred part of the settlement between the EPA and Volkswagen on emissions and "defeat devices," which requires the German automaker to invest $2B (that’s billions with a "B") in zero emission vehicle efforts over 10 years, but that settlement was already a done deal, whereas the Harley settlement wasn’t finalized yet.

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