The largest manufacturing plant in the world is in Wolfsburg, West Germany. It is a car manufacturing plant that belongs to none other than Volkswagen. It covers an area of 6.5 million square miles. It is so vast that employees are able to cycle around the company’s main headquarters.

The houses surrounding the factory are filled with Volkswagen employees, and whoever else lives there is in some way or another associated with the car manufacturer.

Volkswagen beat Toyota in sales, becoming the largest automaker of 2017.

The company is no doubt an engineering giant. However, Volkswagen’s global stature has afforded the company the freedom to do as they please in the automaker industry. This was highlighted when three students exposed Volkswagen for cheating on nitrogen oxide emissions tests in what would become known as the Dieselgate Scandal. You can read the story here: The College Students Who Exposed Volkswagen.

After Volkswagen had apologized for their unethical behavior of underreporting nitrogen oxide levels with illegal defeat devices within their vehicles, they might have thought the nastier details of how they tried to cheat emissions tests would have disappeared. Unfortunately, for them, they have not been so lucky.

Dieselgate Continues

EIT Stock ImageAccording to newly released Netflix Documentary, Dirty Money, Volkswagen conducted emissions tests on monkeys in 2014 to try and prove their TDI vehicles were environmentally safe.

Volkswagen reportedly started a fake non-profit company named the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT). The company paid north of US$700,000 to another company called Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI)  - a company that would go on to test BMW, Mercedes-BEnz and VW cars’ diesel exhaust emissions.

Michael Melkersen, the attorney who uncovered VW’s unethical behavior - revealed that VW were going to take their TDI engines and pit them up against old diesel technologies and compile reports to show that VW’s engines were more environmentally friendly.

James Liang, an engineer working in the Office of Diesel Competence at Volkswagen America, who had a hand in setting up the defeat devices that were named and shamed in the Dieselgate Scandal, also had a hand in the animal testing scandal that has now been revealed. 

Liang delivered a VW TDI Beetle to a research facility owned by LRRI. They were going to compare the Beetle’s cleaner diesel technology to the older technology belonging to the 1997 Ford F250’s emissions. How they proposed to show the TDI cars were less harmful to human beings and more environmentally safe was shocking - to say the least.

The experiments

Michael Melkersen, talking to the filmmakers of Netflix’s Dirty Money, said:

“In the original draft of the study, they were actually going to have a human sitting on an exercise bike - and there’s actually a diagram of this in the proposal - where a human participant would sit riding an exercise bike and they would then be exposed to gas directly from the diesel vehicles. Then, they would poke and prod that person later to determine what type of health effects they would see from this person being gassed.”   

It is not known if Volkswagen tested emissions on any humans, but they have apologized for tweaking the experiment to test the diesel emissions on monkeys. LRRI eventually compiled the report; with the heading reading: Exposures to Diesel or Alternate Technology Emissions to Evaluate Biological Response in Non-Human Primates (NHP).

EIT Stock ImageVolkswagen engineers pumped diesel emissions from the new TDI Beetle and Ford F250 into sealed cages with distracted cartoon-watching monkeys. Each test reportedly went on for hours. The New York Times confirmed that illegal cheating software was used on the TDI Beetle for the experiment. The TDI cars named in the Dieselgate scandal reported 80 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide emissions.

The New York Times reports that Volkswagen had begun funding EUGT as early as 2007. Daimler AG, who own BMW and Mercedes-Benz have distanced themselves from the practices. In a statement to media, they said: “Daimler does not tolerate or support unethical treatments of animals.”

Volkswagen said: “The scientific methods used to conduct the study were wrong. Animal testing is completely inconsistent with our corporate standards. We apologize for the inappropriate behavior that occurred and for the poor judgment of individuals who were involved.”

 

Works Cited

“Dirty Money.” Netflix Official Site, 26 Jan. 2018, www.netflix.com/za/title/80118100.

Ewing, Jack. “German Carmakers Criticized for Emissions Research on Monkeys.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/business/german-carmakers-diesel-monkeys.html.

 

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is dedicated to ensuring our students receive a world-class education and gain skills they can immediately implement in the workplace upon graduation. Our staff members uphold our ethos of honesty and integrity, and we stand by our word because it is our bond. Our students are also expected to carry this attitude throughout their time at our institute, and into their careers.