The legal struggle has heated up between Daimler and the European Commission over the automaker’s continued use of R134a air conditioning refrigerant, which has been banned by the EU, in some of its models. “We are opening a procedure against Germany. This is not a final decision by the Commission,” EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said.
Germany has two months to respond. The procedure for adjudicating the violation of EU rules is a multi-step process which normally takes months. The German government is backing Mercedes-Benz and the dispute could ultimately end up in the European Court of Justice, with the possibility of heavy fines and the recall of about 130,000 Mercedes-Benz A-Class, B class, CLA and SL cars.
Daimler bases it’s opposition to phasing out R134a is due to concerns over the fire safety of the replacement, R1234yf. When burned, R1234yf gives off hydrogen flouride gas, which is toxic. Other European carmakers have switched over their latest models to then new coolant which was jointly developed by Honeywell and DuPont.
The EU’s directive 2006/40/EC bans the use of R134a in models approved for sale after December 2010. Vehicle types certified earlier, or their derivatives, have until 2017 to comply. Daimler and the German government believe that continuing to use R134a in those models in not a breach of EU rules. Daimler had gotten approval from German regulators to continue to use R134a while it develops a CO2 based refrigerant that would be even more environmentally sensitive than R1234yf. Daimler and the German government continue to urge EU officials to reconsider the safety of R1234yf. VDA, the German auto industry’s trade association, said that it was surprised at the European Commission taking formal steps against Daimler before tests on the safety of R1234yf had been completed and evaluated.