By on January 30, 2018

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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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15 Comments on “Volkswagen Chooses Patsy in Diesel Exhaust Experiment Controversy...”

  • avatar

    Not a surprise, any decent organization has QC/QA processes internally and for outside vendors. The Germans now have to be on their best behavior after their recent scandals. They couldn’t fire the monkeys (minkeys?), so humans will pay.

  • avatar

    For a second I though it read “Volkswagen suspended The Stig”.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    This being Super Bowl week , VAG looks like a bunch of “monkeys f’n a football”

  • avatar

    I’m very impressed that VW is so concerned about this problem that they’ve probably known about since 2014.

    I guess Thomas Steg got on someone’s bad side in Wolfsburg!

  • avatar

    As the great canker sore of the USA would say. “Fake News”.

  • avatar

    Well, if their lobbyists were in charge of pollution testing, that explains a lot. I hope there is more to this story, otherwise this is the worst attempt to “manage” a crisis I’ve ever seen.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Mugatu is in charge of pollution testing at VAG.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not possible to overstate the stupidity of VW leadership. Even the phrase VW leadership is funny.

      Maybe it’s not stupidity. Ineptitude or arrogance work too. Maybe they simply don’t think it’s that big of a deal and by putting someone on paid leave, they believe the heat will be turned down.

      Either way, the whole company looks like real life minions who can’t find Gru.

  • avatar

    The real problem is not that they tested on monkeys . . . or people, its that they could have used justin beiber, but nooo, so we all suffer.

  • avatar

    Jack Ruby call your office, er strip club.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “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.

    • 0 avatar

      You do realize testing drugs with unknown effects isn’t the same as testing vehicle exhaust on animals where we already know what the effects of exhaust are, yes?

      Or maybe you don’t know.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        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.

    • 0 avatar

      Mmmmm, pork is yummy.

  • avatar

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

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