VW admits ‘lack of cultural sensitivity’ over racist advert

German car manufacturer blames ‘procedural errors’ as it apologises for publication of racist video on Instagram.

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Werner said VW had not yet decided whether there would be lay-offs as a result of the incident [File: Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Volkswagen’s management board has apologised for the company’s publication on its Instagram page of a racist advertisement, saying the promotional video was published because of a lack of cultural sensitivity rather than racist intentions.

Hiltrud Werner, Volkswagen‘s management board member for integrity and legal affairs, said in a statement on Thursday the company had not yet decided whether there would be lay-offs as a result of the incident.

“Personnel consequences will only follow if we [find staff] deliberately and knowingly violated our code of conduct and our values,” she said.

“We can state that racist intentions did not play any role whatsoever. We found a lack of sensitivity and procedural errors.”

“Also on behalf of the Board of Management, I would like to formally apologise for hurting people as a result of a lack of intercultural sensitivity,” Werner said.

‘Small settler’

In the 10-second clip, a Black man is depicted next to a new VW Golf, being pushed around by an oversized white hand, which then flicks him into a building with the sign “Petit Colon”.

Petit Colon is a real cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina, located near the Teatro Colon. In French, the term translates into “small settler”, which has colonial undertones.

Viewers also noted the floating letters in the video clip faded in such a way that it appeared to spell out an offensive word for people of colour in German.

Juergen Stackmann, responsible for VW’s marketing, said he initially believed the advertisement was fake when he saw it.

“We rightly stand accused of a lack of intercultural sensitivity here and, as member of the Board of Management responsible for Marketing and After Sales, I take responsibility for that. I will personally ensure that training is given, a Diversity Board is consulted and controls are improved.”

A history of blunders

Volkswagen has a history of blunders. In March last year, the company’s supervisory board condemned remarks made by the company’s chief executive after he appeared to allude to a Nazi-era slogan.

At the time, Herbert Diess said “EBIT macht frei” before apologising for the comments and explaining he in no way wanted to draw a comparison to the Nazi-era slogan “Arbeit macht frei”, which appeared on the gates of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

EBIT refers to a company’s earnings before interest and taxes and Diess had sought to emphasise that Volkswagen’s operational freedom would increase with higher profitability.

Source: News Agencies