PARIS - France's top administrative court Tuesday overruled a contentious government decision to ban the sale of some top-end Mercedes models on the grounds that they posed a threat to the environment.
The Council of the State said registrations of certain A, B and CLA-class models, frozen since June, should be resumed in two days.
"It does not appear that if these cars are put on the road in France...they will pose a serious threat to the environment," the ruling said, ordering the government to pay Mercedes France 3,000 euros ($4,000) in damages.
The court said the decision had cost Mercedes France dear, affecting 60% of its sales in the country and 40% of its earnings. A total of 4,500 vehicles had been hit by the ban.
Mercedes France welcomed the ruling saying it "re-established an equilibrium in competition among European carmakers."
France's environment ministry had initiated the move in June, saying the cars use an air conditioning refrigerant the European Union believes emits excessive greenhouse gases.
Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler (IW 1000/18), which appealed against the ban, has insisted on sticking with an older coolant as it claims studies have shown that the new liquid catches fire more easily and puts cars at a greater risk of explosion in a crash.
Since Jan. 1, European Union norms demand that car makers use a cleaner refrigerant, deemed less polluting than older products.
Daimler says it will continue with the older product with the hope that "in the next few years" a better version will be available. Japan's Toyota (IW 1000/8) recently said it will not use the new coolant in its Prius Plus, Lexus, GS and GT86 models sold in Europe.
Daimler says no country besides France has raised an objection to the continued use of the older coolant.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013