Gasps at VW as car pollution tests reveal epic failure
Secret monkey experiments proved cars are more toxic than 20 years ago
The results of rigged animal tests that have plunged the German car industry into renewed turmoil were suppressed because they showed the opposite of what carmakers wanted, it has emerged.
Monkeys were forced to breathe diesel exhaust fumes from a VW Beetle for several hours in an attempt to prove they were not toxic in a study funded by Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, the company that makes Mercedes.
But it has now emerged that the experiment found the exhaust was more harmful than fumes from a 20-year-old diesel car — despite the fact that the Beetle was fitted with software designed to lower emissions during tests. The carmakers allegedly refused to pay for the tests, which were conducted in the US, after the results weren’t what they were expecting.The details emerged as senior managers were suspended at BMW and Daimler in the wake of the scandal in a sign the scandal is spreading beyond VW, the only company to admit responsibility so far.
The US study’s findings were never released. The results were made public for the first time on Tuesday in details leaked to Germany’s Bild newspaper.
Also published were e-mails from the scientists which clearly show they were concerned the car-makers would not be happy with the results.
“I’m a little uncomfortable sending it out without approval. The findings are obviously not what was expected and I’m not sure how they want to proceed,” an e-mail from the research director, Jacob Mcdonald, reads.
An e-mail from Jeremy Brower, another member of the team, reads: “Here is a draft of the report. Please review at least the conclusions before sending it out. I was trying to soften the blow of the results from the study without saying it was a bad study.”
In the tests, monkeys were forced to inhale exhaust fumes from the VW Beetle for over eight hours and then examined for harmful effects. A second control group of monkeys were made to inhale fumes from a 1997 diesel Ford pickup.But to their surprise the scientists found the monkeys who were exposed to the exhaust from the new Volkswagen suffered more inflammation of their internal organs than those exposed to the old Ford.
The tests, carried out by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were commissioned by EUGT (European Research Association for the Environment and Health in the Transport Sector), a lobbying group set up and funded by VW, BMW, Daimler and the German engineering giant Bosch.
Bosch ended its participation in the lobbying group in 2013, a year before the monkey tests took place, and has denied any involvement.
EUGT paid $649,000 in advance for the study, according to Bild. But the newspaper alleged the lobby group refused to pay an outstanding $71,857 because it wasn’t happy with the results.
Until now VW has borne the brunt of the scandal because it allegedly took the lead in commissioning the study, which involved a VW car.
But the other two carmakers moved to limit the damage on Wednesday. Udo Hartmann, head of environmental protection at Daimler, and Frank Hansen, BMW’s head of urban mobility, were both suspended pending internal investigations. VW suspended its chief lobbyist on Tuesday.
BMW has denied any involvement in the study, and Daimler has publicly distanced itself. But Wednesday’s move by the two carmakers came after EUGT’s chief scientific advisor said their representatives on the lobby group’s board were fully aware of the study.
“Of course the car manufacturers knew about the tests on monkeys,” Helmut Greim said. “The current attitude of the carmakers’ boards doesn’t make sense to me.”
Greim defended the tests. “It may sound bizarre to laymen, but studies on monkeys are done everywhere, and for certain questions such studies are very significant,” he said.
— © The Daily Telegraph