Volkswagen suspends executive over monkey tests


FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Automaker Volkswagen has suspended its head of external relations and sustainability in response to widespread public criticism over experiments in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

The company said in a statement today that Thomas Steg was stepping away from his duties at his own request.

The statement from the automaker said that the company was "drawing the first consequences" as it investigates the activities of EUGT, the entity backed by Volkswagen and other carmakers that commissioned the monkey experiment.

Steg had said in an interview published in the Bild newspaper he had known about the experiment but did not inform the company's then-CEO, Martin Winterkorn. Steg said he rejected an initial proposal to use human volunteers and said that even after animals were substituted the experiment "should not have taken place."

The move follows a report in The New York Times the now-disbanded EUGT commissioned the 2014 monkey test at the Lovelace Respiratory Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., to measure how Volkswagen's diesel technology was succeeding in controlling harmful emissions.

Diluted exhaust gases from a late-model Volkswagen vehicle were fed into chambers where the monkeys were exposed for four hours; afterward, lung samples were taken; the monkeys were not killed as part of the tests but their fate is not clear. The study did not deliver a definitive result.

The test was done with a vehicle that used illegal software to cheat on emissions tests, turning controls off when the vehicle was not being tested. That practice was then exposed in 2015, leading to Winterkorn's resignation.

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