Volkswagen, Daimler & BMW sponsored exhaust experiments, say German media

Several German media, including the "Stuttgarter Zeitung" and the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" said today that manufacturers of the German auto industry, led by Volkswagen, have financed experiments in which gasses were emitted from diesel engines to monkeys and humans to check its effects on the respiratory system and blood circulation.

"These monkeys were forced to inhale risky diesel exhaust for four hours for no reason, and Care2 members firmly believe Volkswagen needs to take responsibility for this sickening experiment", said Rebecca Gerber, Senior Director of Engagement at Care2. The study was conducted by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute and commissioned by the European Research Group on Environment and Health funded not only by VW but also by BMW and Daimler. Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Stuttgarter Zeitung newspapers reported Monday that healthy test subjects were asked to inhale nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is primarily emitted in traffic.

"We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals", Volkswagen said in a statement.

Reacting to the news, German Chancellor Angela Merkel harshly criticized the EUGT's experimental practices and demanded a full investigation into the scandal.

"The fact that an entire industry has apparently tried to hide brazen and dubious methods of scientific research makes it even more monstrous". Christina Deckwirth of Lobbycontrol had especially scathing things to say about EUGT chief scientist Greim.

German carmakers have promised to swiftly investigate experiments that exposed people and monkeys to diesel fumes, disclosures that threaten to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that's dogged the industry since 2015. Daimler said it was "appalled by the extent of the EUGT studies and their implementation".

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The experiments would have been commissioned by the European Association for Studies on Health and the Environment in Transport (EUGT, for its acronym in German), an entity founded by the Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW automobile consortium.

Reports of the tests followed a New York Times account of similar experiments on monkeys in the USA, triggering political recriminations and prompting automakers to distance themselves from the work. The details on the human tests emerged only days after the carmakers were found to have conducted similar tests on monkeys.

The controversy comes as the German vehicle industry tries to recover from the "Dieselgate" scandal of 2015, in which it emerged several carmakers had fitted software to their diesel engines created to cheat emissions tests.

Neither the monkey test nor the Aachen test revealed anything of use to the companies involved, with the monkey test being so pointless no report or conclusion was ever released.

A spokesman for VW Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said the supervisory board's executive committee will meet next week to discuss the internal investigations and ensure that such incidents will not be repeated. Europe led the ban on cosmetics tested on animals which affected USA makers where no ban on animal testing exists. BMW too distanced itself from the trial, saying it had taken no part in its design and methods.

No findings of the research were published and separate reports suggest the study was not concluded due to the possibility that the defeat device had compromised the legitimacy of the research.

  • Rita Burton