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FRANKFURT — Volkswagen’s management board on Thursday apologized for the company’s publication on its Instagram page of a racist advertisement and said the clip was published because of a lack of cultural sensitivity rather than because of racist intentions.
“We can state that racist intentions did not play any role whatsoever. We found a lack of sensitivity and procedural errors,” Hiltrud Werner, Volkswagen’s management board member for integrity and legal affairs, said in a statement.
“Also on behalf of the Board of Management, I would like to formally apologize for hurting people as a result of a lack of intercultural sensitivity,” Werner said.
In the 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 adorned 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.
Juergen Stackmann, responsible for VW’s marketing, said he initially believed at first that the ad was fake when he first 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.”
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 apologizing 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 emphasize that Volkswagen’s operational freedom would increase with higher profitability.