Tuesday 11 December 2018

Rigged diesel tests on monkeys showed new cars more harmful

Volkswagen has admitted responsibility for the test, but the scandal is spreading to other brands. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
Volkswagen has admitted responsibility for the test, but the scandal is spreading to other brands. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Justin Huggler

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 car-makers wanted.

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 the experiment found the exhaust was more harmful than fumes from a 20-year-old diesel car - despite the Beetle being fitted with software designed to lower emissions during tests.


The car-makers allegedly refused to pay for the tests, which were conducted in the US, after the results weren't what they were expecting.

Details emerged as senior managers were suspended at BMW and Daimler in the wake of the scandal in a sign that it is spreading beyond VW, the only company to admit responsibility so far.

The findings were never released. The results were made public for the first time in details leaked to Germany's 'Bild' newspaper.

Also published were emails 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," reads an email from research director Jacob McDonald.

An email 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 were made to inhale fumes from a 1997 diesel Ford pickup.

The scientists found the monkeys who were exposed to the exhaust from the new VW 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 New Mexico, were commissioned by a lobbying group set up and funded by VW, BMW, Daimler and the German engineering giant Bosch.

Bosch ended its participation in 2013, a year before the monkey tests took place, and has denied any involvement.(© Daily Telegraph, London)


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