The European Commission (EC) threatens to block Mercedes’s sales within the EU due to the car giant’s reluctance to stop using a greenhouse gas refrigerant.
After France has halted registrations of Mercedes models not compliant with an EU directive ordering European car manufacturers to replace the air-conditioning coolant R134a, EC said the whole EU might follow suit.
The R134a, proved to be a greenhouse gas 1,000 times more powerful than CO2, was ruled out by the EU mobile air conditioning directive 2006/40/EC, banning use of the agent after 2011, while giving vehicle types certified earlier up to 2017 to comply.
However, Daimler refused to switch from the R134a, voicing concerns about the safety of the newly promoted alternative R1234yf developed by Honeywell in partnership with Dupont.
"It can't be ruled out that the new coolant ... may endanger vehicle passengers and other road users," the German transport ministry said in a statement backing Daimler’s decision.
Even though other European carmakers have accepted the change, it is claimed Honeywell’s R1234yf might actually emit toxic hydrogen fluoride gas during burning.
The recent struggle is a part of an on-going dispute between Germany and France over the future direction of European car industry, involving a debate about further strengthening of the CO2 limits.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently lobbied for loosening the CO2 restrictions, opposing the stance of France. This move that has been said might have provoked France to block registration of Mercedes’s non-compliant vehicles.
Currently, Mercedes SL sports cars and A- and B-Class subcompacts, making up for a half of Mercedes’s sales in France, are affected by the suspension.
Based on 2012 deliveries, Daimler said the French registrations freeze could affect about 2 per cent of its global sales, or 29,000 cars.
EC’s spokesman Carlo Corazza said Brussels might join France and “take necessary action including where appropriate infringement procedures" against Germany.
"With this action, it's possible Daimler may consider that its vehicles no longer have to comply," he added.