VW apologises for emissions tests on monkeys as it faces biggest UK group action lawsuit

29 January 2018

29 January 2018

Volkswagen (VW) has been forced to apologise after reports highlighted that it took part in US emissions-based research which used monkeys as test subjects.

The testing exposed the animals to diesel engine fumes to study the effects of the exhaust. Taking place in 2014, the study was run by a research and lobby group set up by VW, Daimler, BMW and Bosch, and used a VW Beetle running in a laboratory. In an ironic twist, it is reported the vehicle was also fitted with an emissions cheating device as part of the Dieselgate scandal.

′We apologise for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals,’ VW said in a statement. ′We are convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place.’

Daimler has distanced itself from the study, set up as part of the European Scientific Stu Study Group for the Environment, Health and Transport Sector (EUGT). ′We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive,’ the company said.

BMW distanced itself from the trial, saying it had taken no part in its design and methods. It said it was ′in no way influenced the design or methodology of studies carried out on behalf of the EUGT,’ adding that it does not carry out experiments involving animals and had no direct role in this study.

Bosch stated that they had left the group in 2013 and were therefore not involved in this test.

However, further reports suggest that the trio of German manufacturers also sponsored tests that exposed humans to the exhaust fumes. The study had 25 people breathe in diesel exhaust at a clinic used by the University of Aachen, Stuttgarter Zeitung reported.

Meanwhile, almost 60,000 people have so far signed up to sue VW over its Dieselgate scandal in the UK.

While the company has set aside $30 billion (€24.2 billion) in the US for compensation and vehicle buybacks, in Europe, drivers are having to make do with a series of recalls and software alterations, some of which have been causing further problems, as the manufacturer states it did nothing wrong in EU tests.

The UK’s High Court will be asked to approve an application by law firms Your Lawyers and Slater & Gordon for a group litigation order (GLO) in March which will enable the legal action to proceed. So far 10,000 claimants have signed up with Your Lawyers, with Slater & Gordon attracting a further 45,000 and other law firms such as Leigh Day also signing up car owners.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Gareth Pope, a lawyer at Slater & Gordon who is leading the actions, said: ′This has potential to be the largest class action the UK has ever seen. But the 45,000 claimants so far registered still represents a small fraction of the 1.2m current and former owners of affected cars who are eligible to join the litigation.’

VW responded in a statement, saying: ′Our consistent position has been that the instigation of legal proceedings in England is premature for some reasons. As we have said all along, we will defend these claims robustly, and we have made it clear to the claimant law firms that we do not anticipate that any of our UK customers will have suffered loss as a result of the NOx issue.

′We have implemented the technical measures in approximately 820,000 vehicles in the UK and in over 6m vehicles across Europe, with the overwhelming majority of customers in question fully satisfied. Given the English High Court proceedings have commenced, it would not be appropriate for us to comment any further at this time.’