France blocks new Daimler car registrations over air coolant row


France has blocked the registration of some new Daimler Mercedes cars in an escalating row over the German company’s use of a banned air conditioning coolant, EU sources say.

French authorities have refused to register Mercedes A-Class, B-Class and SL cars assembled since 12 June, even though German authorities have approved them, a Daimler spokesman said.

Usually, French approval automatically follows a German green light. But "We have no explanation for why the registration in France was not yet accepted," the spokesman said.

An informed EU official said that Paris had blocked the registration because the cars contained a coolant which is not permitted in the EU.

The source added that the French transport ministry had informed the Commission about their plans this week and that the Commission would discuss the matter at their next automotive meeting in mid-July. French government officials have not commented.

In September, Daimler said that HFO-1234yf, the only air conditioning coolant on the market that conforms to a new EU directive on greenhouse gases, could be the primary source for a vehicle fire.

Daimler and its rival Volkswagen are both developing expensive carbon dioxide-based air conditioning systems in order to avoid what they say is a fire hazard posed by Honeywell and DuPont's new refrigerant HFO-1234yf, which emits poisonous hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns.

Meanwhile, Daimler is violating the EU directive by continuing exclusively to use the highly polluting coolant chemical R134a. The German authorities agreed to extend a permit previously granted to Daimler’s cars to its new models.

General Motor's European unit, Opel, began installing HFO-1234yf-based systems in its Mokka model at the start of the year.

Opel said it had found no evidence in a crash test on its new Mokka SUV that the air conditioning refrigerant could catch fire in a collision and release toxic fumes.

Daimler is facing potential infringement proceedings from Brussels after announcing an intention to defy EU legislation and continue using a super greenhouse gas in its car air conditioning systems next year.

From 1 January next year, the EU’s 2006 Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) directive obliges all European car companies to limit the global warming potential (gwp) of their air conditioning refrigerants to substances less than 150 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

A replacement refrigerant called HFO-1234yf had been endorsed by all European car companies - including the German Automotive Association (VDA), of which Daimler is a member

But in a shock turnaround last September, Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, said that a crash simulation they had performed showed that under certain conditions, HFO-1234yf could be highly flammable.

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