Motorcycle Exhaust Makers Fight for California

Dealers in California soon may be able to sell a host of aftermarket pipes for bikes equipped with catalytic converters. The industry is negotiating with California's Air Resources Board to remove the red tape that makes entering this particular market impractical.

Currently, if makers of emission-related parts want to sell to California, they must comply with procedures developed for the automotive industry. Emission-related parts also include jet kits, fuel management systems, cams, cylinder heads, turbocharger kits and trikes.

Plus, under today's regulations, the stock catalyst system can't be removed until the original warranty expires.

Representatives of the exhaust aftermarket contacted CARB to request different rules and less costly procedures for motorcycle parts. The board responded and is creating new procedures. But in a workshop hosted by CARB on Wednesday, industry representatives had major problems with an early draft of the regulations based on the automotive ones.

Among the proposed regulations they deemed impractical:
  • Exhaust makers would have to collect the VIN from each customer.
  • CARB wants to reserve the right to ask the manufacturer to test one system out of every 500 sold.
  • The board wants to reserve the right to ask for in-use testing, which would require manufacturers to borrow a customer's motorcycle and convert it back to stock.

Tom Austin, an emissions consultant to the Motorcycle Industry Council, spoke for manufacturers when he said these requirements would make it cost-prohibitive to produce the exhaust systems. Even if manufacturers raised prices to cover the costs, customers would not be willing to pay such a large amount just to be legal. Instead, he said, they would continue to install illegal pipes bought over the Internet and from other sources.

A board representative said the draft was quickly prepared and was just a talking point. CARB will greatly revise it for another workshop, he said. The woman conducting the workshop admitted that the board has a lot to learn about the motorcycle industry in general, and attendees received surveys asking a wide range of questions.

Use of catalyst systems on new motorcycles became more common as the major OEMs strove to meet CARB's new emission standards for the 2008 model year. Beginning with the 2010 model year, the Environmental Protection Agency will adopt the same standards.

Anti-tempering laws in California and the United States have been on the books for decades, but there was no enforcement for most of that time. Then CARB started handing out fines a few years ago. Last year a dealer was fined $7,000 for offering new motorcycles stripped of their emission controls, and Dynojet paid $1 million for selling a Power Commander not certified for the state. California fined several other companies for selling uncertified vehicles.

CARB considers exhaust systems for motorcycles without catalytic converters as replacement parts. As such, they are legal in California as long as all emission controls such as oxygen sensors are reconnected to the system.

Readers can obtain the draft of the proposed regulatory order at the board's Web site.