Volkswagen Chooses Patsy in Diesel Exhaust Experiment Controversy

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
volkswagen chooses patsy in diesel exhaust experiment controversy

Volkswagen AG suspended chief lobbyist Thomas Steg on Tuesday as its “first consequences as a result of animal tests.” If you’ll recall, German automakers were faulted with funding experiments on monkeys (and also people) that haven’t gone over well in the media. Both Daimler and VW say they will conduct investigations to get to the bottom of how something like this could have happened.

At its meeting today, Volkswagen Group’s Board of Management accepted a proposal made by Steg, who heads external relations and sustainability, that he be suspended until a full investigation is completed.

“We are currently in the process of investigating the work of the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing all the necessary consequences. Mr. Steg has declared that he will assume full responsibility. I respect his decision,” said Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller in a statement.

While it looks like Steg is falling on his sword to help the company save face, there are some indications that he could have been directly involved with the experiments. Automotive News has reported on documents that indicate Steg was informed in May of 2013 about a planned experiment arranged by an organization funded by VW Group, BMW Group, and Daimler called the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT).

The intended goal of the research was to counter claims from the World Health Organization that diesel exhaust can cause cancer.

It’s worth noting that the general consensus is that most forms of air pollutants cause health issues. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (which is part of the World Health Organization) classifies diesel fumes as carcinogenic. But the National Toxicology Program, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health all state that diesel exhaust is a possible or likely carcinogen.

Steig has gone on record saying that the tests involving primates adhered to international scientific standards, and even included an ethics commission in the United States. That seems to be true, and it’s not as if this is the first time any country has conducted unpleasant scientific research on animals. However, he also says he still deeply regrets his involvement in the event.

“From today’s perspective, the experiment should not have been carried out, even under different conditions,” Steg told German newspaper Bild, adding he would have prevented the research in hindsight. “I regret that very much. This has nothing to do with scientific learning.”

Volkswagen claims its investigation into the testing will be pursued intensively. But its primary focus appears to be on the animal experimentation and not the testing done on humans — an issue which all the automakers seem less interested in discussing right now. During his suspension, Steig’s role will be assumed on an acting basis by Jens Hanefeld, who is currently responsible for international and European policy.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jan 30, 2018

    "Steig has gone on record saying that the tests involving primates adhered to international scientific standards, and even included an ethics commission in the United States." Yet he still bit the blue pill, and that's where he went wrong. Steig should have stayed at his post. We live in a world where people think food comes from the grocery store shelf. I work for a medical company that tests its product on pigs, and it has saved thousands of lives. Let's ask our happy customers and their families whether we should have done that.

    • See 2 previous
    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jan 31, 2018

      @jkross22 Actually, my company produces a device, not a drug, but it still requires a prescription. As for the exhaust testing, why would VW waste money and time on a test whose outcome they already knew? The point of testing is to see if there is a difference between A and B. An outcome that is 'less bad' for your health would be nice to see. So, in fact, they didn't know what the effects would be.

  • Voyager Voyager on Feb 01, 2018

    How's Oliver Schmidt doing in jail? Feeling abandoned by VW, whilst his former bosses are enjoying a lavish pension?

  • Sgeffe Honda should breathe a sigh of relief! This makes the decimation of the Cam..”Accord”..look like a bathroom accident! Funny thing, as was pointed out, that apparently mirroring the user’s phone wasn’t the be-all end-all! What a disgrace! 😂
  • Wayne no one ever accused Mary Teresa Barra of being smart
  • Mike1041 I’m sure that it’s cheaper to install a Google system than pay for Apple and android. Simple cost reduction with all the pr crap to make the user think it’s better
  • MKizzy A highly visible steering wheel lock is the best deterrent when the H/K thieves are amateurs looking for a joyride. The software fix may be effective in keeping an H/K car where you parked it, but I doubt most wannabe kia boyz will bother checking for the extra window sticker before destroying the window and steering column. Also, I guarantee enough H/K drivers won't bother getting either the software fix or a steering column lock to keep these cars popular theft targets for years to come. Therefore, any current H/K owners using a steering column lock should consider continuing to do so for the long term.
  • Jack For me, this would be a reason for rejection if considering a purchase of one of these overgrown golf carts.