SEMA Show Highlights

CARB Invites Automakers, Engine and Parts Manufacturers to Voluntarily Disclose Any Potential Violations

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently issued a letter inviting companies to disclose by December 31, 2020, any unapproved hardware or software programs that impact emissions-control systems in vehicles sold in California. The letter specifically cited auxiliary emission-control devices (AECDs) installed on vehicles. An AECD is defined as any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine RPM, transmission gear, manifold vacuum or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system.

In 2015, regulators discovered that Volkswagen had installed a program on turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine vehicles that activated emissions controls in a testing situation but not in real-world driving conditions. Other automakers were subsequently found to have installed AECDs whereby the vehicles produced different emissions results for highway use versus in regulatory test conditions. The violations resulted in settlements with substantial fines and recall mandates.  

CARB notes that some AECDs change the operation of emissions-control equipment when required by specific, sometimes extreme driving conditions, such as pulling a maximum load uphill in hot weather. CARB would consider the AECD legal if fully disclosed and if there is a technically justified rationale for its limited use.

CARB is scheduled to open a new state-of-the-art testing facility in Riverside, California, in 2021 that will include sophisticated detection and testing techniques to identify undisclosed AECDs and other unapproved changes in software and hardware that can affect emissions. CARB’s letter offers manufacturers an opportunity to voluntarily inform the agency of any previously undisclosed software devices or hardware for both on- and off-road applications. While CARB may still pursue an enforcement action, monetary penalties would likely be reduced 25%-75%.

While AECDs installed on automobiles may be a primary focus of the CARB letter, the agency’s voluntary disclosure offer also applies to aftermarket parts manufacturers. Companies may wish to conduct an internal audit in case there is a need to contact CARB before the December 31deadline. Issues to consider would include:

  • Products being sold in California that don’t have an Executive Order (EO).
  • Newer year models or part numbers that need to be updated for products with an EO.
  • EO product changes/updates that change functionality for which CARB should be aware.
  • Recalls or field fixes that have not been disclosed.

With respect to obtaining California EOs, the SEMA Garage was established to assist members in testing their emissions-related parts. The SEMA Garage makes experts and resources available to help members navigate the compliance process, including:

  • Evaluation of your product and recommendations for compliance procedures.
  • Assistance with the CARB EO process.
  • Interaction with CARB staff on your behalf.
  • Review and evaluation of test data.

The SEMA Garage includes a laboratory where members can have their products tested at an affordable cost. The lab capabilities cover all tests (except evap) that may be required by CARB for the purposes of obtaining an EO for both gasoline and diesel vehicles. There are other test laboratories around the country as well. SEMA encourages it members to pursue testing of applicable emissions-related products for highway vehicles. For more information: