In a bold move, the French Government has issued a stop sale order for all new Mercedes Benz A-, B-, and CLA-Class models due to the trio being equipped with R134a air conditioning refrigerant, a compound which was banned in the European Union in May due to its effects on the environment. A new cleaner compound known as HFO-1234yf has slowly begun replacing the older refrigerant in many of the continents new automobiles, and its creators Dupont and Honeywell claim that it has just as much effectiveness as the old refrigerant, but in a much cleaner package.Tensions first arose when Mercedes engineers ran independent crash tests of vehicles equipped with HFO-1234yf. and discovered that it could potentially catch fire and release toxic fumes in the event of a serious crash or accident. Because of these results, the company decided to ignore the new regulations and continue using the older R134a compound in all of its current vehicle offerings. While France is the only country in the European Union to undertake this step, the European Comission has only recently taken France’s side in this dispute which could possibly allow more countries to take similar actions. “Currently in the European market there are vehicles produced by [Mercedes-Benz] that, according to the preliminary Commission analysis, are not in conformity with their type-approval,” stated Antonio Tajani who serves as the EU’s Industry Chief.
As for Daimler, the company claims that the accusations launched by the French government are unfounded and strongly asserts that all of its products adhere to all European laws and regulations. A company spokesman elaborated further saying “Our cars have a valid, European-wide permit. Nothing should stand in the way of their registration. Daimler (despite France’s actions) is not alone in its assertions about HFO-1234yf. Thirteen other major automakers have also spoken out against the new chemical citing similar concerns of flammability and toxicity in head-on collisions. Volkswagen (one of the thirteen) has also vowed to follow Daimler’s lead with the company’s Chairman Ferdinand Piech releasing a statement late last year claiming that none of the company’s extensive lineup of brands will put HFO-1234yf into their vehicles regardless of what the EU designates.