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AIR CONDITIONING SERVICE COST ON THE RISE, NADA WARNS

 WASHINGTON, May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The phase-out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is raising questions about the cost and availability of auto air conditioning service and repair, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
 "Customers at new-car dealerships want to know why they are paying sharply higher prices for air conditioner service," said NADA President Jim Lust, a Chevrolet-Buick-GMC dealer in Aberdeen, S.D.
 "They are also concerned about the availability of air conditioning service after 1995, when the production of CFC refrigerants is banned," he added. "And now buyers are confused about ominous-sounding warning labels on new vehicles still using CFCs."
 These concerns stem from an international agreement with 110 countries to ban the production of CFCs, such as Freon (CFC-12), by the end of 1995. CFCs were originally to have been phased out by the year 2000, but the cutoff date was moved up when evidence showed the earth's ozone layer deteriorating faster than thought. Chemical manufacturers and automakers are now rushing to convert air conditioning systems to alternative, non-CFC refrigerants (HFC-134a).
 As stocks of CFC-12 are depleted, the cost of routine air conditioner maintenance has risen dramatically and will likely climb further, NADA said. New regulations requiring all dealers and service shops handling CFC to be certified and to use approved recovery, and/or recycling machines have also raised the cost of air conditioning service work.
 Depending on the price and supply of CFC-12 remaining after 1995, owners of vehicles still using CFCs will have to decide whether to continue using CFC-12 or have their vehicles retrofitted to accept HFC- 134a. Industry estimates for retrofitting range from $250 for late model cars and trucks to over $1,000 for many older vehicles that will be more difficult to retrofit.
 All new vehicles are expected to be converted to non-CFC refrigerants by model year 1995. In the meantime, models still using CFC-12 are required by the Environmental Protection Agency to carry labels that say the vehicle contains a substance that "harms public health and the environment by destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere."
 Consumers should not be discouraged by these warning stickers, because the air conditioners are covered by the manufacturers' new- vehicle warranties, according to NADA. Automakers are reassuring consumers that they will continue to service vehicles still under warranty for as long as supplies of CFC-12 last, or they will retrofit these vehicles to use their new alternative refrigerants.
 "Ask your dealer about all applicable warranties covering air conditioning service and repair," Lust said. "Consumers concerned about air conditioning service and repair after the warranty expires may want to consider an `extended warranty' or service contract that covers these cost."
 For owners of vehicles using CFC-12, preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid the rising cost of service and repair, according to NADA. To reduce unnecessary loss of refrigerant, air conditioners should be checked regularly, and leaks should be fixed promptly.
 NADA also strongly recommends that owners make sure their automotive service center is certified to handle CFC-12 and uses approved recovery and/or recycling machines. NADA advises that, for vehicles using non- CFC refrigerants, only the manufacturer's recommended alternative refrigerant and service procedures be used. Using substances that have not been thoroughly tested may cause performance and safety problems and void the warranty.
 The National Automobile Dealers Association represents more than 19,000 franchised new-car and -truck dealers holding 35,000 separate franchises, domestic and import.
 -0- 5/26/93
 /CONTACT: Ted Orme of the National Automobile Dealers Association, 703-827-7407 or, fax, 703-821-7075/


CO: National Automobile Dealers Association ST: District of Columbia IN: AUT SU:

KD-DC -- DC010 -- 2427 05/26/93 11:51 EDT
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Date:May 26, 1993
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