The Commission has the duty to ensure that European Union law is fully and uniformly applied throughout the EU's internal market, so that a level playing field and fair competition conditions are respected for all economic operators.
Directive 2006/40/EC on mobile air conditioning (MAC Directive) became fully applicable on 1 January 2013. This Directive requires, inter alia, to use in the air-conditioning systems refrigerants with a limited global warming potential. The refrigerant (HFO 1234yf) chosen by industry to be used on MAC to fulfil the obligations of this directive has been considered unsafe by one German manufacturer that continued to use old refrigerant with a much higher air polluting potential.
As a consequence, currently, in the European market there are vehicles produced by this manufacturer that, according to the preliminary Commission analysis, are not in conformity with their type-approval, and not respecting the obligations of the MAC Directive. According to Framework Directive 2007/46/EC on type approval (Framework Directive), non-conform vehicles cannot be sold or registered in the European Union.
There are also vehicles produced from May 2013 and approved under an extension of a previous type approval granted by the competent national (German) authority, whose legal status needs to be investigated further.
The Commission is committed to ensuring the highest level of safety of vehicles placed on the European market. However, until the present date there has been no confirmation that the safety issues that have been raised are of general nature, or rather linked to specific systems/vehicles. The relevant national authorities, in Germany, are currently evaluating this.
Given this situation, on 10 June the Commission sent a letter to the German authorities in the framework of the EU pilot infringement procedure in order to clarify this situation. The Commission, in its role as Guardian of the Treaty, will duly assess the elements and explanations given by the German authorities.
In early July, the Commission was informed that France was taking temporary measures regarding the registration on their territory of some vehicles, which could be in a situation of non-conformity with (the Framework Directive and) the MAC Directive.
Article 29 of the Framework Directive provides for the possibility for Member States to adopt temporary safeguard measures, if some conditions are met and a specific procedure is followed. If this procedure is triggered, the Commission may consider the French initiative within this framework.
A meeting of the representatives of the 28 Member States discussed the situation on 17 July and supported the Commission position.
There was a general consensus that, within their respective responsibilities, the national authorities and the vehicle manufacturers will have to find effective solutions to ensure the safety of European citizens, the achievement of the climate objectives of the Directive, and the good functioning of and fair competition in the internal market, in full respect of the requirements of the EU legal framework.
Member Stats acknowledged that, regarding the vehicles which do not conform to EU law, corrective measures shall be taken to bring the vehicles in conformity including the withdrawal of those non-conforming vehicles
already sold on the market, as has already been done by a Member State.
The European Commission is committed to continue discussions with Member States in the coming weeks with a view to finding appropriate solutions.