German automakers face heat over tests on monkeys, humans

FRANKFURT — Public criticism of the German auto industry has escalated on reports that diesel exhaust tests were carried out on both monkeys and humans.

The chairman of Volkswagen said Monday that the tests involving monkeys were “totally incomprehensible” and the German government condemned the reported experiments and as well as others involving human volunteers as subjects.

Revelations of the tests add a twist to the German auto industry’s attempt to move past Volkswagen’s scandal over cheating on diesel tests and the resulting questioning of diesel technology across the industry.

Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said tests were “totally incomprehensible” and must be “investigated completely and without reservation,” the dpa news agency reported.

A report by the New York Times found that a research group funded by major German auto companies commissioned experiments in which one group of monkeys was exposed to diesel exhaust from a late-model Volkswagen, while another group was exposed to fumes from an older Ford pickup.

The experiments were carried out in 2014 before Volkswagen was caught using software that let vehicles cheat on emissions tests. They were intended to show modern diesel technology had solved the problem of excess emissions, but according to the New York Times report the Volkswagen car in the tests was equipped with illegal software that turned emissions controls on while the car was on test stands and off during regular driving.

Volkswagen admitted using the software in 2015. The Volkswagen scandal led to public scrutiny of diesel emissions as regulators discovered that other companies’ vehicles also had higher emissions on the road than during testing, though not necessarily through illegal rigging. The industry has had to fend off calls for diesel bans in German cities with high pollution levels.

The New York Times report was followed by one in Monday’s edition of the Stuttgarter Zeitung daily that the now-closed research group also commissioned tests in which humans were exposed to nitrogen oxides, a classs of pollutant. The group reportedly said the tests showed no effect on the subjects.

The German government condemned the reported tests on animals and humans. Transport Minister Christian Schmidt “has no understanding for such tests … that do not serve science but merely PR aims,” spokesman Ingo Strater told reporters in Berlin.

He called for the companies concerned to provide “immediate and detailed” responses, and said a ministry commission of inquiry that was set up after the emissions scandal broke will hold a special meeting to examine whether there are any other cases.

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,” Seibert said. “They raise many critical questions for those behind these tests, and these questions must urgently be answered.”

He questioned the aims of the tests. “The automakers have to reduce emissions of harmful substances further and further,” he said. “They should not be trying to prove the supposed harmlessness of exhaust with the help of monkeys or even humans.”

Seibert said that the supervisory boards of the companies concerned “have a particular responsibility.”

The governor of the German state of Lower Saxony, a major shareholder in Volkswagen, added his voice to calls quick answers.

Stephan Weil, who sits on VW’s supervisory board, stressed that “the behaviour of the company must in every respect fulfil ethical demands.” He said he hadn’t known about the tests.

Just Posted

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Manslaughter charge laid against Red Deer man more than a year after homicide

A manslaughter charge has been laid against a Red Deer man, more… Continue reading

Woman facing charges after pedestrian critically injured in hit and run

A woman is in custody in connection with an alleged hit and… Continue reading

Friday hail storm came at a bad time for farmers

Amount of damage a hail storm does often depends on how far along crops are

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game 8-6 in 10 innings

American League 8 National League 6 (1o innings) WASHINGTON — A record… Continue reading

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Adam Henrique signs $29.1M, 5-year extension with Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Centre Adam Henrique has signed a $29.1 million, five-year… Continue reading

Fashion firms upend design routine to focus on speed, trends

NEW YORK — Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month