Volkswagen 'horrified' over racist Golf ad

The VW ad ran on Instagram briefly before the company pulled the spot amid backlash.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
2020 Volkswagen Golf TSI
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2020 Volkswagen Golf TSI

VW apologized for the ad.

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issued a formal apology on Wednesday after public backlash over an Instagram ad criticized as harboring racist tones.

The spot for the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf ran in Germany on Instagram and featured a black man pushed and flicked away by a large white hand as he approached the car. Viewers also noted the hand pushes the man into a cafe named Petit Colon, which can translate to "little settler" and be taken as a reference to colonialism. Outcry extended to the way "der neue Golf" was spelled in the ad. As the letters come into formation, they briefly spell a racial slur in the German language. The video in the tweet below shows that moment. 

Although VW didn't initially admit any wrongdoing and said it was "shocked and surprised" by the reaction, it has since issued a new statement apologizing for the ad. First, on Twitter, Jürgen Stackmann, a VW board member with sales and marketing oversight, shared a statement in German saying, "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."

Stackmann went on to emphasize that the automaker is keenly aware of its founding during the Nazi regime. Under Adolf Hitler, Volkswagen made use of forced labor.

"That is precisely why we resolutely oppose all forms of hatred, slander/propaganda and discrimination," he said.

Volkswagen of America issued its own statement as the video went viral Wednesday evening. "This advertisement by our colleagues was in poor taste and not an accurate reflection of our values. We sincerely apologize to anyone offended and everyone who viewed."

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