Volkswagen’s head of external relations has been suspended after it emerged the car maker had experimented on monkeys in an attempt to prove the effectiveness of its engine cleaning technology.
The tests took place in May 2015 and saw 10 monkeys locked in airtight containers for four hour periods. They were then left to watch cartoons as the container was pumped with diesel exhaust fumes from a VW Beetle.
To compare results, the animals were then also forced to breathe in the fumes of a Ford F-250.
Thomas Steg is the first Volkswagen employee to have been removed from his post after the experiments were revealed by the New York Times last week.
Volkswagen has been scrambling to explain itself, initially claiming that it had no involvement with the company behind 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.
However, it later emerged that executives at the car marque had prior knowledge to the experiments, with Steg apparently aware of them since 2013.
In a statement today (30 January) Volkswagen said it had “drawn the first consequences” from the scandal.
"We are currently in the process of investigating the work of the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing all the necessary consequences," said the chief executive of Volkswagen, Matthias Müller. "Mr Steg has declared that he will assume full responsibility. I respect his decision.
"The investigations of these matters are being pursued intensively. The duties of Mr Steg will be assumed on an acting basis by Jens Hanefeld, who is responsible for international and European policy."
In 2015 it emerged that Volkswagen had rigged emissions tests on more than 11m cars worldwide.
The share price plummeted more than 30% at the time, and led to the dismissal of chief executive Martin Winterkorn as it battled to restore the reputation of the brand.