German automaker Volkswagen has apologized for a racist ad it posted on its Instagram page while promoting the new Golf 8 car.
In the now deleted video, a pair of oversized white hands drags a black man from Volkswagen’s new Golf 8, before flicking him into a restaurant called Petit Colon, which translates from French as the Little Colonist or Little Settler.
As the words “DER NEUE GOLF” (the new Golf) appear on the screen, the letters N E G E R fade in before any other — which many critics pointed out translates to the N-word in German.
Here is the Volkswagen ad that has caused outcry for being racist
— Bra Joe (@JoeNameTaken) May 20, 2020
Following the public outcry, Volkswagen’s board member for sales and marketing, Juergen Stackmann and Elke Heitmueller, head of diversity management, took to Twitter and LinkedIn to apologise.
“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.
Stackmann and Heitmuller also referred to the company’s history of employing forced labor during the Nazi regime. Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by the Nazi government and used slave labor from concentration camps to build vehicles in its early years.
“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.”
A Volkswagen spokesman said agencies usually produce its advertising campaigns and it was investigating where the mistake happened and would make it public when it found out, Reuters reports.
Volkswagen is now the world’s biggest automaker, delivering nearly 11 million vehicles in 2019, according to CNN. The group makes cars under the VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche brands.