Volkswagen found itself in hot waters after being accused of posting a racist ad on the company’s official Instagram page.
The ad, meant to promote the automaker’s upcoming Golf 8 model, showed an outsized white hand pushing a black man away from the parked car. The hand then flicked the man into a restaurant named Petit Colon, a French phrase that translates to Little Colonist or Little Settler.
Shortly after posting the ad, Volkswagen attracted the attention of people who called the brand out for racism. Volkswagen apologized for the ad and has since deleted the video on its Instagram page.
“We posted a racist advertising video on Volkswagen’s Instagram channel,” the company’s head of sales and marketing Jürgen Stackmann and group head of diversity Elke Heitmüller said in a joint apology posted on social media. “We understand the public outrage at this. Because we’re horrified, too.”
The apology went on to include, “On behalf of Volkswagen AG, we apologize to the public at large for this film. And we apologize in particular to those who feel personally hurt by the racist content because of their own history.”
Stackmann and Heitmüller also described the video as an “insult to every decent person.”
“We’re ashamed of it and cannot explain how it came about. All the more reason for us to make sure we clear this up. And we will make the results and consequences of the investigation public,” they said.
In a separate statement, the automaker issued another apology, saying, “it does not tolerate any form of racism, xenophobia or discrimination,” especially considering the company’s own history.
Volkswagen was founded during the Nazi regime in 1937 where it used slaves from concentration camps to build vehicles. Since then, it has grown as a prominent automaker, rolling out almost 11 million vehicles in 2019 alone. Also included in the Volkswagen umbrella are the brands VW, Audi, Porsche, Seat, and Skoda.