* French judge tells hearing the 'stakes are big'
* Ban has held up sales of thousands of cars
* Toyota switches three models back to banned coolant
(Adds detail on judicial procedure)
PARIS, Aug 23 France's top administrative court
said it would decide on Tuesday whether to suspend a government
ban on the sale of some of Daimler's cars in France
in a row over coolant fluid.
France held up the sale of thousands of Daimler's Mercedes
Benz cars after the German carmaker chose not to equip them with
a new, more environmentally friendly coolant.
Daimler has asked the court for an injunction suspending the
government's ban, arguing that the new refrigerant, known as
R1234yf, poses a potential fire hazard.
"The stakes are big," Jacques-Henri Stahl, president of the
tribunal judging the case in the Council of State, told lawyers
for Daimler and the French government during a two-hour hearing
on Friday. "We're at the heart of overlapping national and
A lawyer for Daimler, Denis Garreau, said the ban affected
60 percent of the company's sales in France.
"No other (EU) member state has taken the measures that
France has taken," he said, calling it a "brutal decision" to
suspend sales. "Daimler's position has been jeopardized in
The Council of State's presiding judge could temporarily
suspend the government's ban on Tuesday, and might also order
the government to resume assigning licence plates to Mercedes
cars on a temporary basis.
There could then be a further, more drawn-out judicial
procedure in which several Council of State judges would
consider whether the ban should be permanently overruled.
France has argued that the ban is legally permissible under
an EU law that protects the environment and public health.
Japanese carmaker Toyota also confirmed it had
stopped using the flammable air-conditioning refrigerant in its
cars sold in Europe, responding to public pressure in Germany.
"We have equipped three models with the old refrigerant in
order to respect our customers' safety concerns because of the
controversy in Germany," a spokesman for the carmaker said.
While Toyota remained "very confident" about the new
coolant's safety, the company wanted to avoid being drawn into
the debate, he said.
The group is no longer producing any vehicles for Europe
with the R1234yf refrigerant manufactured by Honeywell
and DuPont. Previously, its Toyota Prius Plus, Lexus GS
and GT86 were all equipped with the chemical.
(reporting by Alexandria Sage in Paris; additional reporting by
Christiaan Hetzner in Frankfurt; writing by Christian Plumb;
editing by Catherine Bremer and Tom Pfeiffer)