n behalf of bikers from 47 different states, a legal team has filed a proposed class action complaint against Harley-Davidson, alleging anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 motorcycles were sold with a potentially dangerous defect in their anti-lock braking systems.
The complaint, filed last month in the Northern District of California, says motorcycles with the hidden defect can malfunction without warning and under normal operation due to a defective wiring harness.
The suit asserts Harley-Davidson knew about the defect since 2008, but failed to notify motorcycle owners about necessary repairs, upgrades or replacements. The damages in controversy are more than $5 million.
The alleged defects affected the 2008-2010 model year Harley-Davidson Touring model and CVO Touring model motorcycles. The suit points out that Harley-Davidson advertised the motorcycles’ new anti-lock braking systems feature as the latest in braking technology designed to “help the rider maintain control during emergency stopping situations.”
Typically, Harley-Davidson charged an extra $1000 for motorcycles equipped with the anti-lock braking systems technology, the suit claims.
The new technology required operators to brake differently depending on if the motorcycle was equipped with or without anti-lock braking systems. For motorcycles with anti-lock braking systems, motorists in an emergency braking situation shall apply continuous braking pressure on the brakes, the suit states. The company allegedly instructed riders without the anti-lock braking systems feature to release and reapply the brakes in an emergency.
Harley-Davidson allegedly acknowledged that if their recommended technique in emergency situations was used on non-anti-lock braking systems motorcycles, then the wheel could lock and “can cause loss of vehicle control,” resulting in death or serious injury.
Since 2008, a host of bikers and motorcycle law enforcement officers reportedly notified Harley-Davidson about anti-lock braking system failures. Additionally, the company discovered during testing of its Touring models that the wires linking the front wheel-speed sensor to the bike’s engine control unit were “prone to breakage,” states the suit.
“Harley-Davidson knew that, if those wires broke, the anti-lock braking systems would become nonfunctional, leaving the motorcycle with only standard “foundation” braking—requiring a completely different set of braking techniques to stop the motorcycle in an emergency,” wrote attorneys Nicholas Armstrong and Mark Todzo.
Despite this early awareness, the suit alleges Harley-Davidson sold tens of thousands of motorcycles with faulty anti-braking systems and failed to change its instructions to its consumers in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Finally, in 2011, Harley-Davidson began selling Touring and CVO Touring model motorcycles with retrofitted wiring harnesses to rectify the problem, states the suit. Additional anti-braking systems problems The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigation the 2008-2010 Touring and CVO Touring models following numerous complaints about the bikes’ hydraulic control units.
Experts say if the brake fluid was not flushed every two years affected motorcycles could fail due to a clogged valve in the anti-lock braking systems’ hydraulic control unit.
When this situation occurred, it was easy for the operator to detect that the brakes were not functioning correctly. To rectify this problem, Harley-Davidson recalled 175,000 purchased or leased 2008-2010 model year Harley-Davidson Touring and CVO Touring model motorcycles. Although the recall corrected a hydraulic defect in the affected braking systems, the complaint contends, it did not address the problem with wire breakage in the wiring harness.
The class-action complaint says the company is obligated to disclose the hazards associated with a defective wiring harness, especially since the breakage of these wires could occur without warning, leaving the rider with a non-functional anti-lock braking system.