An article appearing last Friday in Der Speigelonline, a German online news magazine, reports the latest development in the disagreement between the European Commission and automaker Daimler over the use of R-134a refrigerant. Below is an edited and annotated translation of that article.
Stuttgart – Mercedes-Benz has for months bickered with the EU over the use of the refrigerant R-1234yf. The automaker claims that the substance is dangerous and will therefore continue to use the now-banned R-134a, while Brussels stubbornly insists on the implementation of existing policies. This war is not decided yet – but Daimler has won a battle and a lot of time. [The European Commission, with offices in Brussels, has banned R-134a in new model platforms introduced after the 2011 model year. A total ban goes into effect in 2017. Ed.]
Mercedes was there to assist the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) (similar to our own Department of Transportation) as the Authority granted an extension of registration rights for three models, the Mercedes-Benz A-, B-and SL-Class, a spokesman for the Authority said on Friday.
Simply put, Mercedes has made these three models theoretically older than they are – and should therefore continue to be allowed to use the old refrigerant. That’s because determining which refrigerant should be used depends on the time of type approval.
New or old?
Type approval determines the date on which a new car model is certified by the authorities for sale within EU countries. Vehicles registered (by the manufacturer) after 1 January 2011 received their approval stipulating that on 1 January 2013 they be equipped with the new refrigerant R-1234yf – otherwise they would be subject to sanctions that range from fines to withdrawal of type approval. [The regulation calls for a low global warming refrigerant, not specifically R-1234yf. Ed.]
What’s changed here is the exact interpretation of the current legislation as it applies to a car that is similar to the previous model in only a few details. For example, a new model can be built over the old floor pan, so instead of a new-model approval, an existing approval should allow the use of the banned refrigerant.
But these three Mercedes-Benz models had originally applied for and received a new approval. Against the background of the dispute with the EU, the manufacturer decided to seek an extension of the existing approval (from the KBA). The application was accepted, according to the KBA, because there was “no reason not to.” The extension of existing permits is “common practice.” A spokesman for the Authority said “The car manufacturers have a choice and can subsequently change their mind.”
Mercedes is not the only OEM to take advantage of this legal gray area. Other manufacturers like Toyota and Porsche make use of the loophole. That’s how Porsche argued for the approval of their mid-size SUV Macan, which will come on the market in 2013, saying it is based in large part on the Audi Q5. And that basically is an old car.
In a letter available to the news agency Reuters, the European Commission criticized the actions of the KBA as “not acceptable. This will undermine an EU directive which is in force since the beginning,” according to the letter.
[We’ll report on the EC letter as it becomes widely available. Ed.]
The Mobile Air Conditioning Society’s blog has been honored as the best business to business blog in the Automotive Aftermarket by the Automotive Communications Awards and the Car Care Council Women’s Board!
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, http://bit.ly/10zvMYg for more information.
You can E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org . To locate a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Click here to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.
The 34th annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Training Conference and Trade Show, Power Up will take place January 16-18 2014 at the Sheraton New Orleans.