VW PR boss quits over monkey testing 

VW PR boss quits over monkey testing 

Volkswagen has suspended its chief spokesman at his own request amid revelations that monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes.

VW public relations boss Dr Thomas Steg had taken “full responsibility”, the giant manufacturer said.

The automaker is still scrambling to recover from the 2015 diesel emissions scandal when it admitted to installing software in 11 million diesel vehicles to trick pollution tests. Two other car giants are involved in the latest controversy.

It emerged last week that EUGT, an agency jointly funded by VW, Daimler and BMW, had conducted the animal testing in the US in 2014.

The organisation at the Lovelace Respiratory Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sought to measure how Volkswagen’s diesel technology was succeeding in controlling harmful emissions.

The New York Times reported that 10 monkeys were locked into airtight chambers with diesel exhaust from a VW Beetle while the primates watched cartoons. Diluted exhaust gases from the late-model were injected for four hours.

None were reported to have died but their current fate is not known.

Lung fluid samples were taken from the sedated monkeys, which were not killed for the experiment, it was reported. The study did not provide a definitive result.

Another study in Germany measured the effects of inhaling nitrogen dioxide on 25 human volunteers.

Bild quoted Steg saying he knew about the monkey testing in advance but did not inform the company’s then-CEO, Martin Winterkorn. Steg said he had stopped an alleged plan to include human testing.

Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements and pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The Volkswagen case led to increased scrutiny of diesels, which were found to emit more pollutants in everyday driving than during tests, although not always through illegal software as was the case with Volkswagen.

VW CEO Matthias Muller added: “We are currently in the process of investigating the work of the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing all the necessary consequences.

“Mr Steg has declared that he will assume full responsibility. I respect his decision.”

Muller, who took over VW following the diesel scandal, called the testing “wrong, unethical and repulsive”.

A VW probe would be carried out “at top speed”, board chair Hans Dieter Poetsch told the media, with results expected next week.

“We will ensure that such things will not be repeated,” he said. “We apologise for the wrong behaviour and bad decisions of individuals.”

 

Volkswagen’s Autostadt or Car City in Wolfsburg, Germany. Picture credit: Flickr 

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