Enormous EPA Fines Could Signal Beginning Of End Of Aftermarket Parts

There are some countries where it is illegal to replace tires with a larger size. That’s where we’re at based on the latest move by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sending fear through the aftermarket industry like nothing before it is going after companies for violating the Clean Air Act. 

The announcement today means the EPA is stopping companies manufacturing components bypassing emissions controls whether for on- or off-road use. The ramifications are profound and could see it fining aftermarket companies to the point they can’t stay in business.

The EPA fines began with this diesel tuner in Florida

It found that Punch It Performance and Tuning from Florida sold more than 20,000 tuning devices that “altered engine performance.” If altering engine performance is criteria for fining companies, then everyone from Edelbrock and Holley to the local tuner will soon be put out of business. 

Tailpipe Emissions | Getty
Tailpipe Emissions | Getty

According to Hemmings, the EPA says that Punch It sold devices “that included hardware components and electronic tuning software, known as ‘tunes,’ that hack into and reprogram a motor vehicle’s electronic control module to alter engine performance and enable the removal of filters, catalysts and other critical emissions controls that reduce air pollution.”

The EPA fine amounted to $850,000

This EPA investigation started in July 2015. Soon after Punch It was dissolved. But now the former owners have been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $850,000 and surrender everything they used to create the devices including software and source codes. 

Punch It focussed primarily on diesel engine components including EGR-delete tunes. In a statement, the EPA said it will “vigorously pursue and prosecute companies who attempt to circumvent emission controls that are required to reduce air pollution. This case illustrates why stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of aftermarket defeat devices is an EPA National Compliance Initiative.”

The EPA’s “National Compliance Initiative has just begun

Diesel truck rolling coal
PISMO BEACH, CA – NOVEMBER 27: A diesel truck spews black exhaust at the Oceano Dunes/Pismo Beach State Park on November 27, 2016, near Pismo Beach, California. | George Rose/Getty Images

The “National Compliance Initiative” seems to have just gotten started. The EPA in 2019 went after 42 companies. It was more aftermarket companies than any other year in the last 10 and a 40% increase since 2018. The companies were a mix of diesel and gas-powered component manufacturers. 

Aftermarket companies have received heavy fines that seem too large to see them continue in business. Magnaflow was fined $612,849 in March for selling aftermarket exhaust without catalytic converters. Performance Diesel was fined $1.1 million in September for selling catalytic converter-delete exhaust systems. In Nevada, JAMO Performance Exhaust was fined $10,000 in August for similar exhaust violations. But there’s more.

Flowmaster was ordered to pay $270,000 in March, OBX Racing Sports paid a $25,000 fine in April, Weistec Engineering was fined $8,500, and APEX Integration paid a $5,000 fine in August. These companies sold tunes or catalytic converter-delete exhaust systems for gasoline-powered vehicles. 

EPA says the initiative will run through 2023

The initiative will run from 2020 through 2023. It will “will focus on stopping the manufacture, sale, and installation of defeat devices on vehicles and engines used on public roads as well as on nonroad vehicles and engines.” 

Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association or SEMA helps to make it possible for the aftermarket to wind its way through tough government regulations. In Sema’s Guide to Government Regulation of Emissions-related Aftermarket Parts, it says interested companies must obtain certification in the form of a CARB EO number ensuring parts comply with the Clean Air Act not to tamper with emission controls.

SEMA says disclaimers are meaningless

SEMA also warns that “for off-road use only” or “for racing use only” disclaimers are meaningless. So, if you’ve bought headers or a chip that defeats the use of emissions controls it’s not legal. 

But the EPA won’t go after you. Instead, as we are seeing, it goes after the source; the manufacturers. This can open the door for further scrutiny and EPA focus which won’t be good at all for the aftermarket.