EU seeks to defuse row over Mercedes air-conditioning coolant

Tue Aug 6, 2013 1:17pm EDT
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By Barbara Lewis, Christiaan Hetzner and Hendrik Sackmann

BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Tuesday it would mediate in a fierce row over air-conditioning coolant in Mercedes-Benz cars by refereeing safety tests.

The Commission, citing the need for a "confidence-building measure", said it wanted to guarantee the impartiality of an analysis of the coolant being carried out by Germany's motor vehicle department KBA and offered independent technical support for the investigation.

"The main objective will be reassuring manufacturers and the consumers that all means were invested to ensure the principles of objectivity and transparency in the risk assessments," a spokesman for Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in a statement sent to Reuters.

Authorities in France have banned the sale of most of Daimler's (DAIGn.DE: Quote) new model Mercedes cars because they use a coolant whose properties do not comply with a new EU directive on global warming which came into force at the beginning of the year.

Daimler has said its refusal to phase out coolant R134a is justified by safety concerns over the only available replacement, Honeywell International Inc's (HON.N: Quote) R1234yf.

Daimler late last year recalled all Mercedes-Benz cars worldwide that used 1234yf, saying that crash simulations showed it was more flammable than first believed.

The German car maker says that, based on 2012 deliveries, the French block could affect about 2 percent of its global sales, or 29,000 cars.

Honeywell and its partner DuPont (DD.N: Quote) control the global supply of 1234yf which is forecast to racks up billions of dollars in sales.   Continued...

Emblems of German car Mercedes-Benz are pictured during a news conference about the new production line of the Mercedes-Benz S-class in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle