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Fast and loose with compliance

Andrew Gaved

The manufacturer’s pioneering of natural refrigerants is overshadowed by its past stance, says Andrew Gaved

In the modern world of media, there is a common phenomenon which sees a business news story being all over the front pages in the early days, then completely disappearing from view without any real conclusion, just because it no longer has the oxygen of new information that keeps it in the forefront of the news.

In journalism school, the tutors drummed into us that although these sorts of stories may have slipped from the front pages, they should not be allowed to slip from our minds – because, they said, “you do not want to miss the story’s conclusion”.

It was something that was brought home to me this month, when our old friends Daimler put out a statement on what they intended to do about their car air conditioning.

Considering all the fuss that surrounded Daimler and its steadfast refusal to comply with the European Mobile Air Conditioning Directive, the public statement of intent was not exactly surrounded by fanfare. It has all the hallmarks of the attentions of the PR people.

I suppose it is not surprising they didn’t want to shout about it, as Daimler was attempting, after three years of apparently ignoring European law, to get away with blithely stating that it was effectively now toeing the line and complying.

If you look at the news story on page 6, you will see just how Daimler went about the exercise – no doubt after several briefings with the PR handlers.

In short, the method was to focus on the fact that the carmaker was on track to be the first to market with a full production CO2 system.

But as a consequence of that, it needed to say that not all of its models could immediately be converted to CO2, so instead it would be putting in the only currently available alternative – and that is R1234yf, of course.

If you recall all the lengths that Daimler went to set its face against the Directive, you might think that the carmaker might want to put in a bit of justification or claim a bit of moral victory.

Not a bit of it. In fact, it actually had the temerity to suggest that it was making these changes to comply with the law, thereby conveniently skirting over the fact that it was in fact the second phase of the law it was complying with, somehow forgetting the three years of non-compliance.

I think this chutzpah is what rankles most – the fact is, it appears to have been  playing fast and loose with a law that every other carmaker has had to comply with.

I can’t help thinking that has all come about because its fellow carmaker VW has transgressed in an even more public way and the word has gone out that there can’t be two German automotive manufacturers in breach of the law.

The real shame is the fact that Daimler is now pioneering a natural refrigerant solution should be something worth celebrating, but it has been completely overshadowed by the way it has gone about it.

To restore the confidence of the cooling industry and the car manufacturing business, Daimler needs to have the book thrown at it.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Dear Andrew, please forgive me, but I am not sure that I follow the logic of this post.
    Are you saying that we shouldn't celebrate the fact that Daimler are now pioneering a natural solution because they should be punished for past crimes?
    I am not a religious person but the parable of the prodigal son calls for us to kill the fatted calf at this point. Should the moral of that story not apply here to welcoming Daimler to the natural refrigerant world? Will throwing the book at Daimler actually happen and it fit did would it really act as a deterrent to other car manufacturers at this moment in time? I really don't know.
    The lack of a consistent 'stick' approach to regulations in this industry is certainly not helping anyone, but to claim that this is because two German automotive manufacturers can't be in breach of the law reeks of misguided conspiracy claims. If the RAC industry wishes to make this global headlines, why not get on the BBC today programme or something? I personally don't think we have the stomach for that, even if it were remotely possible (which I guess it isn't anyway). So, lets kill the fatten calf for now.

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  • Jason,
    The logic is simple. The law is the law, whether it is UK or European law. They have to be obeyed and so Daimler shouldn't be allowed to 'forget' the fact it has been consistently in breach of the MAC Directive, just because it is a huge multinational.
    To switch the analogy, if it was revealed that one of our major supermarkets or contractors had been completely avoiding complying with F-Gas rules for three years, I am sure the rest of the industry would be in uproar, because they would have been getting an unfair cost advantage and because F-Gas was brought in to reduce environmental damage.
    In the same way, Daimler, by avoiding R1234yf for three years, has arguably avoided millions of pounds in gas costs that the other car manufacturers have had to pay. It has also added a large volume of carbon into the atmosphere with its higher-GWP R134a.
    It's great that Daimler has CO2 on trial, but the company needs to face trial too for its breach of the MAC Directive!

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