(Repeats to add RICs)
* Daimler, BMW follow suit after VW lobbyist suspended
* Daimler hires law firm to investigate science group role
* BMW removes science group representative from functions
MUNICH/BERLIN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Daimler and BMW suspended or moved employees linked to a group that commissioned exhaust tests involving monkeys and humans on Wednesday, seeking to show a firm response in the face of public anger over the tests.
Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen have come under scrutiny since The New York Times reported last week that they funded an organization called the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT).
The research group commissioned tests that exposed monkeys and humans to toxic diesel fumes, methods condemned as repulsive by Volkswagen’s chief executive.
The revelations drew criticism from politicians and animal rights groups, leading VW to announce on Tuesday it was suspending its chief lobbyist, who was in charge of the EUGT and knew about the planned animal tests but didn’t stop them.
On Wednesday, Daimler followed suit, saying it had suspended an employee and hired an external law firm to investigate EUGT’s activities.
BMW said its representative on the EUGT’s management board would be removed from his current functions pending an investigation into the research group’s work by the carmaker’s legal experts, adding that he would remain with the Munich-based carmaker.
Daimler and BMW did not give the names of the affected employees.
EUGT, founded in 2007 and dissolved last year, could not be reached for comment.
Daimler, parent of luxury brand Mercedes-Benz, reiterated that the company was “appalled by the nature and implementation of the studies.”
“The Board of Management of Daimler AG has decided to suspend the employee, who was a member of the board of EUGT,” Daimler said, adding it had no influence on the study’s design.
The executive committee of VW’s supervisory board will meet next week to discuss the internal investigations and ensure that incidents such as the exhaust tests, denounced by German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks as “abominable”, will not be repeated.
Europe’s largest carmaker cannot seem to break free of the “dieselgate” scandal which erupted nearly two and a half years ago.
German prosecutors earlier on Wednesday searched the homes of several current and former employees of VW’s luxury division Audi in connection with the carmaker’s involvement in the diesel emissions test cheating scandal. (Reporting by Edward Taylor, Andreas Cremer and Irene Preisinger; Editing by Adrian Croft)