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Good deal ... for whom?

Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 07:00
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While putting Motor Age's May Underhood feature (A tale of counterfeits and contaminants) together, I “Googled” the price of R134a and found a range of cost from just under $90 for a 30-pound container to over $200 per jug. That’s a substantial difference in price, but before you log on to eBay and stock up on the cheap stuff, consider just how good a deal you — and your customer — may be getting.

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First is the obvious question of quality. Is the manufacturer of that jug you’re buying a reputable one? And as we discussed in the main article, are you really getting 30 pounds of product, or 20 pounds of refrigerant and 10 pounds of sand?

Another reason for the price difference is a practice called “dumping.” Dumping occurs when a foreign company sells a product in the United States at less than its fair market value. Manufacturers in the Far East have easier (and cheaper) access to mineral resources critical to the production of R134a, and may even receive unfair government subsidies to allow them to sell on the global market at a price that places all other manufacturers at a disadvantage.

For those reasons, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the initiation of anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty investigations of the imports of R134a from the People’s Republic of China. Once it is determined that these Chinese imports “materially injures or threatens material injury to” domestic manufacturers, it may impose import tariffs to level the playing field. But don’t expect that to happen until later this year.

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