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A single refrigerant

The industry needs a single standard for an auto air conditioning refrigerant to replace the current one, and a formulation called 1234yf is the logical winner. Daimler AG and others holding out for a different chemical should recognize they have lost the debate and join the rest of the industry.

This is more than an abstract engineering debate on the merits of competing designs. There are compelling reasons for proceeding: to end the greenhouse gas harm the old refrigerant is causing; and to let dealers and independent garages confidently invest in new facilities to service air conditioners using 1234yf. Further delays will unnecessarily harm consumers, dealers, repairers and the environment.

The flap is as pointless as the 1970s Betamax-VHS standards squabble. Sony long argued that its Betamax video recording system was technically superior, but consumers overwhelmingly bought the less expensive VHS format. Sony's delay in scrapping Beta only increased its losses.

That's where Daimler is now. European Union rules will effectively ban the current R134a refrigerant in 2017. An SAE International report with participation from the Detroit 3 and several Asian manufacturers rejected Daimler's earlier contention that 1234yf is a fire risk. Even German environmental regulator KBA concluded 1234yf is not dangerous.

Daimler would prefer its air conditioners run on carbon dioxide, which is cheaper than 1234yf, but there is no sense in continuing to cast a cloud of uncertainty across the wider industry while such a system is developed.

Automakers are already selling models with 1234yf air conditioners and earning U.S. government fuel economy credits for doing so. This dispute is settled. The sooner Daimler recognizes it's just stalling the inevitable, the better.

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