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Volkswagen blames lack of 'intercultural sensitivity' for racist advert

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By Pascale Davies
It's not the first time the Germany company has made a blunder.
It's not the first time the Germany company has made a blunder.   -   Copyright  INA FASSBENDER/AFP or licensors

German carmaker Volkswagen has apologised for one of its adverts that shows a black man being pushed around by a large white hand.

It said there were no racist intentions behind the video — deleted from Instagram in May — and blamed a lack of "intercultural sensitivity".

“The critical point is that we failed to spot the racist elements of this video," said Jochen Sengpiehl, Volkswagen's chief marketing officer in a statement on Thursday.

"I want to apologise for this error of judgment, also on behalf of the team. A key finding of the investigation is that we need an out-of-context review."

The company said it would create a board of diversity experts to check adverts for discriminatory elements.

The 10-second advert, set in Argentina, shows a black man next to a VW Golf, who is shoved around by a large white hand belonging to his white girlfriend, which then flicks him into the doorway of a building with the sign "Petit Colon".

The advert was deleted in May

The name Petit Colon refers to an existing cafe in Argentina. But the term translates as "small settler" in French.

As the advert ends, the German words for “the new Golf” are faded in, which for a split second appears to spell out a racist epithet.

In March last year, the company apologised again for remarks by VW's chief executive Herbert Diess who said "EBIT macht frei", alluding to he 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.