June 6, 2018 / 1:06 PM / 4 months ago

VW reinstates lobbyist, exonerating him over diesel fume tests

    WOLFSBURG, Germany, June 6 (Reuters) - Volkswagen
            said it has reinstated its former chief lobbyist
after an internal investigation into his role in tests that
exposed monkeys and humans to toxic diesel fumes found no
evidence of wrongdoing.
    In January Europe's largest automaker had suspended Thomas
Steg, a former German government spokesman who took charge of
external relations at Volkswagen in 2012, pending the
investigation. 
    "Volkswagen management, as well as I personally, believe
that it is part of good corporate culture that employees must be
fully rehabilitated after being exonerated," VW's head of
integrity and legal affairs, Hiltrud Werner, told reporters on
Wednesday at the carmaker's base in Wolfsburg.
    The company is continuing a broader investigation into all
of its research projects.  
    A source at VW had said in January that 58-year-old Steg, as
head of sustainability topics at the VW group, was not only in
charge of the unit that had commissioned the tests but also had
prior knowledge of the monkey experiments and had made no effort
to stop them.             
    "I was neither responsible for the planning, the
authorization or the commissioning of this study," Steg told a
press briefing on Wednesday. "The study was unnecessary and of
no scientific use, it should have never happened."
    The project was funded by VW and German peers Daimler
           and BMW           who sought to prove that diesel
cars posed less of a threat to human health than groups
including the World Health Organization have claimed, an
auto-industry source has said.
    After Steg was relieved of his duties, Daimler and BMW also
suspended or moved employees linked to the group that had
commissioned the tests, the European Research Group on
Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), which was
funded by the three carmakers.             
    "You can rest assured: We will continue our investigation of
all experimental and research projects in which the company was
or is involved, directly or indirectly, and will complete it in
the second half of the year," Werner said.
    The New York Times first reported the experiments, which it
said were conducted in 2014, a year before VW was found cheating
U.S. diesel emissions tests, which sparked the biggest business
crisis in its history. 
    VW has since pledged sweeping steps to ensure that a scandal
such as "Dieselgate" will never happen again. A lot of the
changes will be overseen by Werner, a former head of group
auditing at VW.
    Wednesday's announcement to bring back Steg comes as VW,
under new Chief Executive Herbert Diess, seeks to accelerate its
post-Dieselgate transformation and shift focus back to its
operating business, especially its push to embrace electric cars
and new mobility services.

 (Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Susan Fenton)
  
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