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FRANCE: Court lifts ban on Mercedes sales in refrigerant row

By Graeme Roberts | 25 July 2013

A French court has ordered the government to allow sales of Daimler's Mercedes-Benz models to resume, an official at the Versailles Administrative Tribunal said on Thursday.

The decision suspends a registrations freeze imposed by France in a dispute with Daimler over its use of a banned air-conditioning refrigerant, Reuters reported.

"The previous decision to no longer allow (Daimler) registrations is temporarily suspended," the official said.

France's environment ministry must now decide within 10 days whether to pursue the freeze on several Mercedes models, according to the summary ruling.

Daimler and French government officials did not immediately return calls and messages from the news agency seeking comment.

French authorities had halted registrations of Mercedes A-Class, B-Class and SL cars assembled since 12 June because of Daimler's refusal to stop using the refrigerant R134a banned by the European Union from use in new models since the start of the year.

The dispute centres on a German decision to allow Daimler to continue using R134a, a global warming agent more than 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, because of safety concerns about the replacement chemical made by Honeywell and Dupont.

The European Commission has warned Germany it faces possible action over the decision by its KBA motoring authority.

The French registrations freeze halted deliveries of the Mercedes models which together account for more than half of the brand's sales in the country.

If maintained, the freeze could affect about 2% of global Mercedes sales, or 29,000 cars annually.