The ban was imposed in mid-June 2013 and obviously, it has not met with favor where Mercedes Benz is concerned. Head of the French Association of Mercedes Benz Dealers said that this is this very coolant that is in use in 95% of cars (with air condition) in France, but only Mercedes Benz is being targeted. This ban is likely to affect up to 50% of the company’s sales in France. It comes at the worst possible time as new car sales throughout Europe are declining for the fifth consecutive year.
On their part, France says, auto makers were asked to upgrade to refrigerants which did not have such an adverse effect on the environment. A replacement is available. But this new coolant, according to Mercedes Benz, which has been developed by DuPont and Honeywell, is more harmful and toxic besides being flammable. The company has therefore asked for an extension to use the R134a refrigerant till 2017. They have been granted extension by German regulators but, France has turned down this request.
Mercedes Benz dragged the battle to court, and even managed to win the case, but even then, the cars are banned as French environment ministry has refused to follow court orders. About 2700 people are awaiting registration of their new Mercedes Benz car, as their government refuses to do so.
As the news is spread with each passing day, sales of Mercedes Benz vehicles decline as customers would not want to book a car which might not get delivered. In an interview with Stuff, Oussama Kaddoura says, “It’s all over the media. A customer is not going to take the risk of placing an order when there is a risk the car won’t be delivered. Our rivals are happy.”
UPDATE: Mercedes Benz’ claim that the new substance, HFO-1234yf, is more harmful and flammable, is not correct, says Honeywell. Here is what they have to say:
• While the vast majority of automakers have made the necessary preparations to comply with the MAC Directive, only one automaker – Daimler – has reported any concerns with using HFO-1234yf.
• Daimler’s concerns are based on testing that was conducted without the participation of any reputable third party and without consultation with others in the industry, and it happened just a little more than three months in advance of the MAC Directive’s implementation date.
Regarding the flammability of HFO-1234yf:
Any fluorocarbon-oil mixture used in a refrigerant application – including the currently used refrigerant HFC-134a, which has been used safely in hundreds of millions of vehicles for decades – can be made to combust under the right conditions.
Studies have shown that HFO-1234yf is vastly less combustible than other materials found in much larger quantities under the hood of an automobile, including gasoline or diesel fuels, lubricating oils, and brake and transmission fluids. In addition, industry safety experts agree that appropriate vehicle design further minimizes refrigerant combustion risks. SAE International has concluded that it is 300,000 times more likely that a vehicle would experience a fire for reasons unrelated to its refrigerant than due to its refrigerant, and that there is no significant risk caused by using HFO-1234yf.
Regarding the safety of HFO-1234yf:
HFO-1234yf was the subject of comprehensive testing conducted during a three-year period under the Cooperative Research Program (CRP) of SAE International, sponsored by 15 global automakers, including all leading German automakers. SAE’s study concluded that HFO-1234yf is safe for use in automobile applications, and a recent follow-up study has drawn the same conclusion.