Volkswagen duped British officials into thinking one of its diesel cars produced less harmful emissions by rigging a test involving 10 monkeys, it has been alleged.
The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector - a body funded by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen - is at the centre of the allegations, the MailOnline reported.
A Volkswagen Beetle was provided by Volkswagen for testing in which 10 monkeys were force to inhale its fumes.
But the test had been rigged so the vehicle produced far less harmful emissions, according to The New York Times.
Details of the experiment, which took place in 2014, were revealed during a lawsuit brought against Volkswagen in the US last year.
The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector was shut down in 2017 amid the controversy.
But the body's findings had already been cited in reports by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, was also duped by its work, it was alleged.
He remembered being taken to a lab in the early 2000s where 10 diesel vehicles were running on Rollers.
King, himself an asthma sufferer, said that the air was so clean he was able to breath freely.
But the paper alleges that the European automakers built their diesel cars to pas emissions tests — but produce more pollution when on the road.
Several studies carried out by the British, French and German governments show that diesel cars made by almost all European manufacturers produced more pollution far above what is permitted by law.
"We were all misled by the car manufacturers," King said.
Volkswagen has already pleaded guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges in the US and paid US$26 billion ($35b) in fines, following the diesel emissions scandal.
Lawyers in the UK are preparing a class action on behalf of VW owners which could be the biggest consumer legal action in UK history.
Both Daimler and BMW said they were unaware that the Volkswagen model used in the Albuquerque monkey tests had been rigged to produce false data.
In a statement, Volkswagen said the researchers never managed to publish a complete study.