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France blocks sales of new Mercedes-Benz cars over green air con row

The air conditioning wars continue this week as it emerges that France is blocking the sale of some of Mercedes-Benz’ key models including the A-Class B-Class and SL Class, over the use of an illegal air coolant.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 2013-one of the cars affected by the air conditioning dispute

Last week, a British Lib Dem politician revealed how the firm’s parent company Daimler, was facing the possibility of fines from the EU and bans of sales of its cars in countries across Europe, over its failure to replace an old air conditioning gas with a new one, that’s considered greener.

A  law passed in 2006 means all carmakers had to change the gas used in their air conditioning units with a chemical that causes less global warming. But Daimler is believed to be disputing the safety of the new R1234yf refrigerant, claiming that it can represent a fire risk in the case of a collision.

While the EC is considering legal action against Germany for its protection of Daimler, over the violation of the 2006 Mobile Air Conditioning Directive, France has brought the issue to a head by stopping car sales.

In response, Chris Davies, the MEP who first brought the issue to light, is now calling on more EU countries to consider taking similar steps to fast-track the issue.

France’s actions could cost Daimler tens of millions of Euros in lost sales. The company is currently expecting to sell more than 30,000 Mercedes in France each year.

Davie,s who worked on the legislation when it was first proposed, says the air conditioning law is to be wholly welcomed. By changing from the old HFC134a air coolant, with its global warming potential (GWP) 1,430 times greater than CO2, to the new R1234yf gas, GWP is cut to just 4 times greater than CO2.

Davies said: “The French government deserves congratulations from everyone who cares about environment and the threat from climate change.

“Daimler’s approach has been cynical in the extreme. The company has been playing for time to try and avoid paying the small additional cost of the new refrigerant, but the French action will hit it hard in the pocket.”

UK transport minister Stephen Hammond says that the safety of road users is a priority but, in a letter to Davies (18 April 2013), writes that the British government has seen no evidence “that the R1234yf refrigerant constitutes a risk to road users in an appropriate designed vehicle system”.

However a spokesperson for Daimler, told the Reuters news agency, that the company had had "no explanation” as to why France had stopped registrations of some Mercedes models.

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Mercedes

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