Last week, Daimler announced that it would be sticking with R-134a refrigerant in its cars due to some tests it conducted that showed the newer, more environmentally friendly R-1234yf ignited in certain crash tests. Apparently, this R-134a replacement had already been installed in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, so the automaker is electing to issue a recall for a small number of SLs to replace the refrigerant. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the recall, this worst-case scenario crash was only verified by Daimler, and the refrigerant recall is not yet affecting any other automakers.

Since the two refrigerants are interchangeable, all Mercedes-Benz dealerships will have to do is replace the R-1234yf with R-134a and swap out the A/C lines. Mercedes-Benz will be notifying owners this month whose cars were built between December 19, 2011 and May 31, 2012; NHTSA states that only 432 cars will be affected.

Currently, General Motors is the only other automaker in the U.S. using the R-1234yf (in the 2013 Cadillac XTS and 2013 Cadillac ATS in addition to the European-spec Chevrolet Malibu), and it has responded with a statement of its own regarding this matter:

"The safety of our vehicles and our customers is GM's highest priority. The new vehicle refrigerant, called R-1234yf, was evaluated and tested over many years through industry-wide cooperative research programs with organizations such as SAE and other independent engineering organizations and involved 10 major global automobile manufacturers including GM. We believe these tests demonstrate that R-1234yf is a safe, effective and environmentally beneficial motor vehicle air conditioner refrigerant for our future vehicles. However, we are trying to learn more about the Daimler test experience and will, of course, make any decisions and take any actions with our customers' safety in mind."

We're sure this isn't the last we've heard on this topic, so stay tuned. In the meantime, scroll down to see the official recall announcement from NHTSA.
Show full PR text
Vehicle Make / Model: Model Year(s):
MERCEDES BENZ / SL-CLASS 2013

Manufacturer: MERCEDES-BENZ USA, LLC. Report Receipt Date: OCT 01, 2012

NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 12V478000

NHTSA Action Number: N/A

Component: EQUIPMENT:AIR CONDITIONER

Potential Number of Units Affected: 432

Summary:
Mercedes-Benz is recalling certain model year 2013 SL-Class vehicles manufactured from December 19, 2011, through May 31, 2012 originally equipped with R1234yf refrigerant. Daimler AG (DAG), the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, conducted product testing of a vehicle, not sold in the US, but equipped with the same refrigerant. According to Mercedes-Benz, the testing was designed to replicate worst-case conditions expected in a severe frontal crash that would cause a rupture of the air conditioner refrigerant line. A rupture of a refrigerant line will result in a gaseous mixture of refrigerant being released into the engine compartment.

Consequence:
The testing conducted by DAG determined that the escaping R1234yf refrigerant may ignite under specific conditions. The resulting fire could spread to additional combustible materials.

Remedy:
Mercedes-Benz will notify owners, and dealers will replace the R1234yf refrigerant with R134a along with new refrigerant lines (hoses) designed specifically for R134a. The remedy will be provided free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin during October 2012. Owners may contact Mercedes-Benz at 1-800-367-6372.

Notes:
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY: 1-800-424-9153); or go to http://www.safercar.gov.