By on January 24, 2014

DCF 1.0

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.


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21 Comments on “EU Starts Legal Proceedings Against Germany in R134a Dispute With Daimler...”

  • avatar

    I read in a German car magazine Daimler is just steps away from using CO2. Not sure how long it would take them to mass produce, but this may be faster than the court cases.

    I’m not sure what opinion I have on this. On the one hand this R1234yf oly is dangerous under really weird conditions. One could argue we also have 15 gallons of gasoline in a car. On the other hand the condenser with the refrigerant is right in front of the radiator, where it gets hit first in a crash. All the gasoline pipes are kind of internal and less likley to get damaged.

    But I’m sure it is just a matter of not spending money on R1234yf while they develop CO2. I bet anything it has nothing to do with safety, but with the fact to not use it is cheaper (development cost, tooling etc.). On the other hand R1234yf manufacturers have a vested interest in using that, regardless of what it does or not do to the environment or people.

  • avatar

    The EU is getting pounded on by DuPont etc, once CO2 goes mainstream DuPont loses billions. Which for a company lacking so much ethics, sounds pretty good to me.

    I just wonder how they’re going to justify trying to get the EU to ban CO2 so that some other multi billion dollar refrigerant sells for them.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I also feel that there may be politics involved.
    The German auto industry is the dominant player, by far, in the European auto industry. Other countries may do anything to slow them down.

  • avatar

    The good thing about R134 was that it could be used in a system originally designed for R12, I have a car that was retrofitted to used R134 and the AC works fine. There will be no retrofit of older cars possible with R1234yf. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot more of this.

  • avatar

    “bans the use of R134a in models approved for sale after December 2010.”

    So there must be thousands of reported cases of passengers maimed by R1234yf over the last 3 years ? I’m not defending or advocating the use of any of these refrigerant, but all this bickering sounds like a large dose of Not Invented Here syndrome.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally if I were to die soon, I’d rather it be quick ad painless, there’s not much worse then having this gas catch fire, eat away your windshield and be exposed yourself to it. That’s torture.

      The whole point in being upset is that R134a was fine… Until the patent expired.., low and behold, its now the worst gas in existence and this new miracle gas has come to save us all, but wait, who made this? Well looky here, DuPont/Honeywell. Multibillion dollar corporations with deep ties into the EU.
      It’s cronyism and the citizens are the ones hurt.

      MB is trying to end the monopoly by coming out with something that creates no so called “greenhouse gases” because it itself, is considered a “greenhouse gas”

      So now you decide
      Be sprayed down with CO2, or R1234yf?

    • 0 avatar

      “…in models approved for sale after December 2010.”

      This is a major, perhaps THE major, reason the new S-Class is officially the same model as the old — the W222 is sold under the same type approval as the W221: “approved for sale” in 2005 or so.

  • avatar

    I worked in the air conditioning field when the changeovers began. I do not dispute the hole in the ozone. The bromine(?) in fire extinguishers was worse but, for sure, some activities with freon needed to be curtailed. Countries that did not sign on to the treaty are probably still using r12.

    Have used r134 in r12 car units and it works without any changeover actually. Have also used the stuff that replaces r22 (410?) and it runs at much higher pressure and requires changeovers of most AC components. Retired now so just take care of my own.

    The thing that always concerned me was the appearance of politics. Dupont was available with SUVA as the laws were being written IIRC. I’m pretty sure it was the first and Dupont probably had impact on the writing of the law. Carrier was featuring those SUVA units and the schools to qualify you to sell and install it.

    I have honestly always felt that stricter controls on the uses of freon would have done a better and more immediate job. Making the venting of freon to the atmosphere illegal was probably the most important step. When I was learning the trade we vented all the freon in the units being replaced. A big waste and it sure couldn’t have been good. However, we were told that the r22 was so unstable that it probably killed virtually no ozone. The 12 in all the cars and refrigerators (and some small window units) was a big ozone killer. It was vented in junkyards all over the world.

    If you think there were politics involved you will find agreement here.

  • avatar

    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.

    I’m confused by this, so model years after 2010 cannot use R134a, but it doesn’t have to be implemented/complied with until 2017? So the 2014s could still be using R134a even if they current generation came out and was approved after 2010?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m pretty sure it means any model introduced before 2010 is safe until 2017, but if you introduce a model on or after 2010 it requires te new stuff.

      ie say the cruze was introduced in 2009 it’s safe until its either redesigned or if it were to stay the same 2017.

      That’s if I understood correctly about what you were asking.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s “(approved for sale) –> (after December 2010)”, not “(approved) –> (for sale after December 2010)”, in geek terms.

  • avatar

    r123yf has been EPA approved USA for autos. It is not a drop in replacement for R134.

  • avatar

    “Other European carmakers have switched over their latest models to then new coolant which was jointly developed by Honeywell and DuPont.”

    Err…to then new coolant? Try…the then new refrigerant. Sheesh.

    So where were the safety Nazis when R-134a came out? If your doing AC service on an automobile with the refrigerant and it gets sucked in to the induction system of the engine phosgene gas is produced which is poisionous. Did anyone raise objections that is could harm folks but especially mechanics? Of course not. Those in power don’t give much of a damn about the slaves in the coal mines, eh?

    • 0 avatar

      That was a danger only to mechanics. Mercedes claims the danger in a crash extends to driver, passengers, passers-by and first responders. That’s a lot of potential plaintiffs. in the mechanic’s case, they can always argue he did something wrong and is at fault, since he was working on the car.

  • avatar

    This is the fifth or sixth post on the subject here on TTAC in the last three years. Apparently most of the commenters don’t remember this judging from the reaction.

    Mercedes objected to this new refrigerant because of the test results they found. Rather than obey what they saw as a silly order, Mercedes has steadfastly refused to use the new refrigerant.

    The EU seat jockeys passing out orders have been mightily distressed by a mere car company giving them the middle finger and telling them to frack off and have another think.

    BMW and VW have backed up Mercedes, and so has the German government, which is why the EU is contemplating going after them for disobedience, and giving them 60 days to respond as to why they shouldn’t be punished.

    Over the last three years, Honeywell, with a brand new factory in China to make this monopolistic refrigerant, have sponsored further tests with the SAE, which are in direct disagreement in findings with Mercedes’ position. The SAE says it’s safe. Mercedes says it isn’t.

    Now, in the history of modern chemicals, many have turned out to be poisons or gross pollution. DDT is the main one. Mercedes is blowing the whistle on this stuff prior to its widespread use. Given their opposition, surely the safe thing to do is to not introduce the stuff, since it is of no commercial benefit for Mercedes to object – the opposite is true

    But, as usual, the makers say it’s safe and have a factory to pay for, so again as usual, the human race rushes to use something even when a red flag is raised. The prudent thing is to use something else, which is why the German car industry is trying to get CO2 systems to work.

    But logic rarely trumps special interests with a spare buck or two to spend in advocacy.

    I hope Mercedes wins against the odds stacked against them.

    • 0 avatar

      There might be an easy solution. Why not having mutual contracts between EU car manufacturers and the EU Commission that would would shift the burden of liability in such cases from the manufacturers to the Commission? If something’s going wrong everything is fine. The taxpayer takes the bill, the car manufacturer obeys the regulation, the EU Commission says shit can happen.

    • 0 avatar


      that was a phenomenal comment +1000

      From a purely self-interested perspective you could point out that the one party who has to ultimately accept full liability for the automobile and it’s systems is the one objecting here. That, more than anything, is what has been raising my interest in this issue.

      If this continues to escalate I would hope the car companies would actually make their case to the general public. This entire subject is 100% completely off the mainstream awareness and the product is rapidly spreading in use on both sides of the Atlantic.

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