Volkswagen on Wednesday withdrew an advertisement posted on Instagram for its Golf vehicles that it admitted was racist and insulting, saying it would investigate how it came about and instigate consequences.
The German automaker, which has seen its reputation tarnished in the past five years after it admitted cheating diesel emissions tests, said that it does not tolerate any form of racism.
The advert on Instagram featured large pale-skinned hands seeming to push and then flick a black man away from a shiny new yellow Golf parked on a street.
German TV said that the hand could be interpreted as making a “white power” gesture, while letters that appear on the screen afterward briefly spell out a racist slur in German.
Volkswagen board member for sales and marketing Juergen Stackmann and head of diversity management Elke Heitmueller took to Twitter and LinkedIn to apologize.
“We understand the public outrage at this. Because we’re horrified, too. This video is an insult to all achievements of the civil rights movement. It is an insult to every decent person,” they wrote.
“We at Volkswagen are aware of the historical origins and the guilt of our company during the Nazi regime. That is precisely why we resolutely oppose all forms of hatred, slander/propaganda and discrimination,” they added.
Founded on orders by Adolf Hitler to build a “people’s car,” Volkswagen employed forced laborers for the Nazi war effort.
A Volkswagen spokesman said agencies usually produce its advertising campaigns, and it was investigating where the mistake happened and would make it public when the investigation was complete.
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