EU warns Germany over Mercedes-Benz use of banned R134a coolant

Article by Anita Panait, on July 12, 2013

Germany is facing possible action from the European Commission over Daimler's refusal to phase out a banned air conditioning coolant -- R134a -- from its new cars. France has blocked registrations of some new Mercedes-Benz models that contain the banned refrigerant, the executive arm of the European Union has confirmed -- the latest sign of growing tension between Germany and other EU members over the direction of auto industry policy and regulation.

Commission spokesman Carlo Corazza told Reuters that officials are probing Daimler's Germany-backed refusal to heed an EU directive banning R134a.

Corazza said that if Germany is confirmed to have violated the ban, the EC "may take necessary action including, where appropriate, infringement procedures." Daimler has disclosed that France is blocking new registrations of its Mercedes-Benz SL sports car and A-class and B-class compacts, which account over half of the brand's sales in the country.

A spokesman for Daimler said that France's sales ban on vehicles produced since June 12 is starting to hurt deliveries. Daimler is insisting that its refusal to phase out R134a -- a global warming agent over 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide -- is justified by safety concerns.

Daimler claims the only EU-compliant coolant, the R1234yf, may result to fire and may emit toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. According to Daimler, France's move to freeze registrations of some of its models could affect around 2 percent of its global sales, equivalent 29,000 cars. [source: Reuters]

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