DETROIT—Vehicle certification is among the functions halted by the partial shutdown of the federal government, meaning auto makers could face delays in launching new and updated models if the impasse in Washington drags on.
Under the Clean Air Act, new vehicles and engines can't be sold legally in the U.S. without approval from the EPA. Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s president of global markets, noted this week that the automaker has a number of important products headed to dealerships this year, including the redesigned Explorer and Escape, as well as the new Lincoln Aviator.
"We're all waiting in lines," Farley said at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. "Every new vehicle has to get certified through the government. If that gets backed up, so do the launches."
Farley said Ford doesn't have any vehicles scheduled to launch in the next few months, though.
"Thankfully, ours are positioned more in the spring and summer," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen. If this continues ... who knows?"
General Motors on Jan. 16 confirmed it is "among the auto makers that are awaiting decisions in the certification process." Pat Morrissey, a spokesman for the company, declined to comment on how many 2020 model-year vehicles are caught in the certification process.
GM North America President Alan Batey on Jan. 14 told Automotive News that the company's business operations had not been impacted by the government shutdown.
Morrissey said the automaker waiting on EPA certification doesn't necessarily mean it's impacting GM's operations at this point.
1,200 a year
The EPA every year doles out about 1,200 certificates of compliance proving that cars and trucks meet federal emissions standards, according to Jeff Alson, a former senior engineer and policy adviser who retired from EPA last spring. Automakers test their own vehicles, then submit the data to the EPA for review. The EPA targets new models and randomly selects about 200 vehicles for verification testing at its engine laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Even vehicles that aren't physically tested by EPA will be delayed from going on sale, Alson said, because the EPA has to review each data submission, prepare a certification and deliver it to the companies. During the shutdown, there are no technical personnel to process those applications.
"The Agency has not significantly delayed any certification application," EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in an email.
"Auto makers are still monitoring the performance of their products during this time," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members represent 70 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales, said in a statement, "and we hope the government shutdown is resolved expeditiously so EPA staff can carry on their work."
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has gotten certification for the 2019 Ram 2500 and the Ram 3500 with a gasoline-powered V-8 but is awaiting certification of the Ram 3500 diesel, a spokesman said.
"The Cummins diesel version of the Ram 3500 could receive its certification shortly after the EPA returns to work," the spokesman said in an emailed statement. "The vehicles are undergoing their normal quality validation testing which takes place when a vehicle is launched. Shipments are not being delayed by emission certification at this time."
FCA has dealt with this issue before, even outside of a government shutdown. It experienced delays getting certification for some versions of the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 last year, hampering the company's ability to execute a plan aimed at topping the Chevrolet Silverado for second place in the full-size segment. The EPA also delayed certification for the 2017 and 2018 EcoDiesel Ram 1500 in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.
The government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and has furloughed some 800,000 federal employees, is now the longest such event in U.S. history.