German manufacturers have admitted to financing study created to show emissions had decreased by forcing animals to breathe in exhaust fumes.
German carmakers have promised to swiftly investigate experiments that exposed people and monkeys to diesel fumes, disclosures that threaten to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that has dogged the industry since 2015.
Volkswagen's dieselgate scandal took a freakish turn last week when the New York Times reported a lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico locked ten monkeys in a chamber and had them watch cartoons while exhaust fumes from a Beetle were piped into the compartment. The report claimed that 25 people had been involved in the experiment where they were made to inhale varying amounts of nitrogen dioxide at an institute run by Germany's Aachen University.
The German government said on Monday that any auto emissions testing on monkeys or people was unjustifiable.
"No ethical way justifiable", said spokesman for German Chancellor Merkel.
"We're convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong", the vehicle maker said.
The Times report said the group that commissioned the studies, known by German initial EUGT, got all its funding from the three automakers; Volkswagen said in a statement the founders were Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and components and technology firm Bosch. That was a year before VW faced global condemnation for installing emissions-cheating software on diesel-based cars to fool public regulators about the level of nitrogen oxides emitted by its vehicles.
Asked about scandal, Daimler group admitted in a statement last Sunday, which condemned with energy, experiment carried out by EUGT.
Seibert said that the supervisory boards of the companies concerned "have a particular responsibility". Daimler and BMW said they had no knowledge of the Volkswagen-led study. "We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation", Daimler says in a statement.
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Details of the human testing were exposed only days after it emerged that the carmakers had carried out similar tests on monkeys.
"The minister has no understanding for such tests, which damage animals and humans and that do not serve science but merely PR aims", Mr Strater said.
The car-maker-supported research is likely to have been in response to the World Health Organization report and an attempt to challenge evidence it had compiled, but the decision to conduct test on animals and even humans seems extreme and raises potentially damaging moral and ethical dilemmas.
One of the experiments studied the health effects of emissions in the workplace.
They were then checked in hospital for harmful effects.
According to the publication, 10 monkeys were locked into airtight chambers for each test and given cartoons to watch.
News of the medical test in Germany has awakened uncomfortable memories of the Third Reich. Reports of the tests, following a New York Times account of similar experiments on monkeys in the USA, triggered political recriminations and had automakers scrambling to distance themselves.
The Netflix documentary went on to reveal, that after Volkswagen supplied the diesel Beetle for use in the study, it demanded real time access to the results.