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GERMANY’S government laid into Volkswagen yesterday after reports that, in an echo of the nazi era, the flagship carmaker had tested its exhaust fumes on humans and monkeys.
Transport Minister Christian Schmidt had “no understanding for such tests … that do not serve science but merely PR aims,” spokesman Ingo Strater told reporters in Berlin.
He called on companies concerned to provide “immediate and detailed” responses and said a ministry commission of inquiry that was set up after the 2015 emissions scandal will hold a special meeting to examine whether there are any other cases.
Germany’s automative industry is still reeling from its shaming, having been caught out fitting cars with software to cheat emissions tests.
But a New York Times report on Thursday revealed that research group EUGT, which is funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, had carried out research on monkeys to counter a World Health Organisation decision that diesel exhaust is carcinogenic.
The paper said that EUGT had put 10 monkeys in an air-tight chamber and exposed them to fumes from a recent VW Beetle model and an older Ford pickup to show that modern diesel technology had solved the problem of excess emissions.
The tests were carried out in 2014, before VW was caught cheating, and the car used was fitted with the illegal software that turned emissions controls on while the car was on test stands and off during regular driving, said the paper.
And yesterday the Stuttgarter Zeitung reported that the now-defunct research group had also commissioned tests in which humans were exposed to nitrogen oxides, a class of pollutant. EUGT reportedly said the tests showed no effect on the 19 men and six women used as test subjects.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that “the disgust many people are feeling is absolutely understandable.”
“These tests on monkeys or even humans can in no way be ethically justified,” he said. “They raise many critical questions for those behind these tests, and these questions must urgently be answered.”
VW chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said the tests were “totally incomprehensible” and must be “investigated completely and without reservation,” the DPA news agency reported.
Volkswagen was set up in Wolfsburg in 1937 by the German Labour Front under nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
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