That VW didn’t cost a pony, mate, it cost a monkey
I wonder how many readers knew the shiny Volkswagen (VW) diesel car they bought was tested on monkeys. Not driving the vehicles, though I’m sure a few species could drive better than some humans. I mean breathing in lungfuls of exhaust fumes.
VW did do that, or at least they did until recently. Same thing as locking Beagle’s heads in a vice so they have no choice but to inhale cigarette smoke to check for nicotine poisoning, or rabbit’s eyelids held open to test creams and perfume for the cosmetic market, horrific cruelty in the name of science and commerce that ends up as false descriptions to aid sales. “Our cars are guaranteed emissions friendly.”
The company suspended its head of ‘external relations and sustainability’, (corporate gobbledygook) after admitting he had known about experiments in which monkeys were locked in small chambers and exposed to diesel exhaust. (See smuggled out photograph.)
Thomas Steg, (not Stig) a former government spokesman, who worked for German chancellor Angela Merkel and her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, is the first person to be relieved of his duties over the scandal. VW said it was “drawing the consequences” – whatever that bloody means – which has rocked both the government and industry. ‘Rocked’ is the best verb I can think of to describe the scandal we all know will soon subside as we get back to car buying without a conscience.
VW will “investigate the practice immediately”, that is to say, hit on the tried and tested method of delay until the public’s memory fades and something else is newsworthy.
How to keep away from cigarettes – use a holder
The company tried its best to distance itself from the institute which commissioned the tests, the European Research Group of Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), a car lobby group funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. But as ever with the world’s secretive car manufacturers, company managers were informed about the testing before and after it was carried out. They denied knowledge and then confessed full knowledge. Herr Steg knew the experiments were happening. Internal documents seen by German media suggest he had known about them as far back as 2013. (Reuters.)
The interesting sidebar is how Steg got the job. He joined the company in 2012, one of many top managers to have taken a direct route from politics, in what is commonly referred to as a revolving door policy said to highlight the mutual interests of the two worlds.
Informed readers will see similarities with Westminster’s revolving door where politicians move with impunity from wasting voter’s time to highly paid jobs in industry or finance as ‘advisers’. The process is corrupt. Adviser or consultant usually means lobbyist, someone with direct access to old cabinet colleagues socially, at the men’s club.
Serious monkeying around
What form did this monkey testing take? The tests, carried out in May 2015 by the New Mexico-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI), involved locking 10 Java monkeys in small airtight chambers for four hours at a time. (New York Times.)
The animals were left to watch cartoons, Tom and Jerry a favourite, while they breathed in diesel fumes from a VW Beetle.
The ultimate aim of the tests was to prove that the pollutant load of nitrogen oxide car emissions from diesel motors has measurably decreased, thanks to “modern cleaning technology”. And we all know how that cleaning technology was a dud. VW is still recovering from the gross cheating it carried out on diesel exhaust fumes. This is a second scandal.
A wee boy did it and ran away
VW made the expected, well-worn non-apology. It was never company policy – let’s call it for what it is – to gas monkeys. A renegade junior what done it – honest Moses.
The company said a “small internal group” had mistakenly pushed for the animal tests to be carried out. Shock, horror. They didn’t seek executive approval. VW stated the obvious, this did not reflect VW’s ethos.
But industry watchers, such as your humble reporter, complained that that was a bare faced baboon lie. The experiments were well-documented and the results presented to managers at BMW, Daimler and VW. Moreover, the New York Times report said the group that commissioned the studies, known as EUGT, got all its funding from the three automakers. What were the fees attributed on the accounts books – visit to zoo?
I know nothing, Meester Fawlty
The line of best German suits queued up to express astonishment. Hans Dieter Pötsch, VW’s supervisory board representative and chief controller, (controller of what is a mystery) said he was struggling to understand how the tests had been approved, calling them “in no way understandable”.
Daimler and BMW tried to distance themselves from the tests, stressing that none of their cars had been used. “We are very clean” they chortled. Sigh.
Meanwhile, because the fees paid by motor manufacturers are lucrative, the practice continued. In a second round of tests, the animals were forced to breathe in the fumes of a Ford F-250 used for the purposes of comparison, because the car was an older model with apparently less sophisticated filter technology.
What can car buyers do about it?
The world is being reorganised to suit big corporations. There are so many scamming us, animals, and the planet, we’d need an army of tanks to run through their buildings to get to the filing cabinets, or a good Russian hacker or computer geek to get to their records. In the US, VW is facing a class action in the courts for cheating diesel emissions. In Europe you can get your car exchanged at a decent price.
In gung-ho Brexit Britain, where suicide is the best solution to welfare withdrawal, standards are in no-man’s land. You can stuff your complaint up your exhaust pipe. VW won’t pay you a penny compensation. Even as I type this the right-wing car press is already defending diesel cars, cranking up a disreputable campaign. Don’t buy those magazines, and don’t buy a diesel car. If you have one get rid of it as soon as you can. They won’t be worth a penny in months to come no matter what the dealer promises you. And that includes taxis and buses and white van man.
As for experimenting on animals, VW has admitted they have also experimented on humans. In those studies humans were exposed to low levels of air pollutant. (Los Angeles Times.) Dr Joseph Mengele would be very proud.