UPDATE 1-France deepens dispute over Mercedes sales ban
PARIS, July 26 (Reuters) - France took formal steps on Friday to outlaw sales of several Mercedes models, upping the stakes in a standoff over parent company Daimler's use of a refrigerant banned by the European Union.
The government vowed to maintain a sales freeze on models including the Mercedes A-Class, B-Class and CLA after the German luxury carmaker contested the move in court.
Registrations "will remain forbidden in France as long as the company does not to conform to European regulations", the environment ministry said in an emailed statement.
France has halted sales of Mercedes cars assembled since June 12 because of Daimler's refusal to stop using the air-conditioning coolant R134a, which has been banned from new vehicles since the start of the year. The blocked models account for most of the Mercedes brand's French business and 2 percent of its global deliveries.
An administrative court had ordered France on Thursday to re-examine the case after Daimler argued that the sales freeze had not followed EU procedures for "safeguard measures".
Daimler, which had said it was "confident" sales would resume after the ruling, declined to comment on Friday's announcement.
The dispute centres on a German decision to let Daimler continue using R134a - a global-warming gas 1,400 times more potent than carbon dioxide - because of safety concerns about the replacement chemical R1234yf.
The European Commission has warned Germany of possible action over the move by its KBA motoring authority to re-certify the new Mercedes vehicles under older approvals granted for earlier models. That decision sidesteps the requirement to use R1234yf, made by Honeywell and Dupont.
The EU's "mobile air conditioning" directive bans R134a in models approved for sale since the start of 2011, but vehicles certified earlier have until 2017 to comply.
The auto industry agreed to adopt the Honeywell coolant after extensive testing, but Daimler broke ranks last year and said that its own tests had identified unacceptable risks.
Both chemicals may ignite when in contact with extremely hot surfaces or engine parts, releasing toxic hydrogen fluoride gas, but the Honeywell coolant can do so at slightly lower temperatures.
German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer has urged Brussels to let Daimler continue using the banned coolant until the KBA completes further crash-test analysis in coming weeks.
However, EU safeguard measures allow European governments to halt sales of the Mercedes cars until Brussels decides whether their KBA certification complies with EU rules.
National authorities can block sales when they suspect an "incorrect application" of EU regulations and when the vehicles would "seriously harm the environment", according to EU rules.
"This safeguard procedure will be put into effect immediately," the French environment ministry said on Friday.
France's sales freeze has so far prevented the delivery of 4,518 vehicles, 2,704 of which have already been sold to waiting customers, Daimler said in a court filing this month.