FRANCE: Mercedes-Benz turns to lawyers as Paris outguns tribunal
Mercedes-Benz says it is now starting legal steps in the ever-escalating and bitter refrigerant row between France and Germany adding it would be open to compensation as Paris bans - yet again - sales of the automaker's A, B and CLA models.
Only last Friday (26 July), a French Court said it would allow Mercedes to certify the vehicles, but now the Environment Ministry says it has provisionally suspended registration due to the manufacturer's 'non-conformity' with European Union (EU) rules on refrigerant.
The Ministry cites Article 29 of the EU directive concerning refrigerant use requiring automakers to use lower CO2-emitting chemicals, but France and Germany have adopted wildly differing positions with the former opting for the r1234yf and the latter, the r134a variants.
"Our lawyers are now in the process of defining the next steps," a Mercedes-Benz spokesman told just-auto from Germany. "We will now initiate the necessary legal steps.
"It all happens very quickly, one step after another. Of course we will take the next steps with regards to justice - we will fight for our rights. If they come to us and say we have a proposal for compensation, that is something we are open [to] in principle.
"We are still convinced r1234yf is safety risk - that is why we decided to develop CO2 climate systems."
France's Environment Ministry flatly disagrees however, in a dispute that has rapidly moved up the political agenda involving the German Ministry of Transport and the European Trade Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, who appears to be backing the French horse.
"The Tribunal [Administratif de Versailles] last week suspended the decision by the French authorities," an Environment Ministry spokeswoman told just-auto from Paris.
"In parallel, the French State reserves the right to have an appeal against that. This is to do with Article 29, which authorises a Member State to refuse for six months maximum a vehicle that goes strongly against the environment."
Mercedes insists its preferred r134a refrigerant is in use on 95% of the current car fleet, while maintaining the European Union-preferred r1234yf variant is highly flammable in certain conditions.
Germany's road safety authority, the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA), is currently evaluating r1234yf.
The French registrations freeze has halted deliveries of the Mercedes models, which together account for more than half of the brand's sales in the country.