Court lifts Mercedes sales ban in blow to France
By Alexandria Sage and Chine Labbé
PARIS (Reuters) - France's top administrative court lifted a sales freeze on Mercedes vehicles on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the government in a bitter row over German carmaker Daimler's use of a banned chemical.
In a temporary injunction ordering the resumption of Mercedes registrations within two days, the Conseil d'Etat voiced "serious doubt" over the legality of the two-month freeze affecting several key models.
France had barred A-Class, B-Class, CLA and SL cars assembled since June because of Daimler's refusal to stop using the air-conditioning coolant R134a, banned from new vehicles since the start of the year under the terms of an EU directive.
The freeze has prevented delivery of around 5,000 Mercedes cars, prompting warnings from dealers that thousands of jobs across the French sales network were at risk if the situation was not rapidly resolved.
The blocked models account for most of the brand's French business and 2 percent of global deliveries.
"We're delighted that the Conseil d'Etat has confirmed our legal opinion and repealed the registration ban in France," a Daimler spokesman said. "We're confident this decision will be upheld."
A definitive ruling is expected within 12 months.
Under the EU "mobile air-conditioning" directive, new vehicle types approved since 2011 must avoid using R134a, a global warming agent 1,400 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Those certified earlier have until 2017 to comply. Continued...