For decades, racing has allowed automakers to explore the limits of their technologies and improve their products, all while providing a boost in visits to the showroom floor after a successful outing.
But a piece of bipartisan legislation again under consideration in Congress uses racing as an artifice to shield from liability those aftermarket parts manufacturers whose products are used to illicitly bypass automotive emissions controls. The Recognizing Protection of Motorsports, or RPM, Act would undermine decades of work in this industry to reduce tailpipe emissions, and it should be scrapped.
The RPM Act, championed by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, uses racing to shield those manufacturers from civil liability for Clean Air Act violations. The issue stems from a 2015 action by the EPA that sowed confusion over whether racing vehicles, which aren't street-legal and can't be registered, still had to comply with emissions regulations. The agency abandoned efforts to limit racing.
However, the EPA has continued to pursue aftermarket parts makers that sell kits that allow individuals to illegally alter a vehicle's emission controls. Diesel pickups in particular get illegally modified to belch thick black smoke from partially combusted fuel as a form of anti-environment protest known as "rolling coal." Just this month, two Michigan companies were hit with a $10 million civil penalty in U.S. District Court in Detroit for manufacturing such devices, the latest of 40 such actions against companies that manufacture and sell the aftermarket defeat devices.