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Volkswagen Pulls and Apologizes for ‘Tasteless’ Instagram Video Criticized for Racial Overtones

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Volkswagen AG has withdrawn an Instagram snippet meant to promote the latest Golf model after social media users criticized the video clip for using potentially discriminating motifs.

The snippet showed a man with dark skin moved around like a marionette by a large white hand before being snipped into the entrance of the Petit Colon cafe in Buenos Aires. The cafe is next to the popular Teatro Colon named after Italian explorer and colonist Christopher Columbus.

Some social-media users suggested that floating letters in the video clip briefly spelled a pejorative German word for people of color.

In a statement, Volkswagen apologized: “Without question: the video is wrong and tasteless,” the company said. “We will clarify how this could happen — and take consequences from this.”

VW has stepped up diversity and integrity efforts since the manufacturer’s diesel-emissions manipulation came to light five years ago, which included controversial testing involving monkeys exposed to exhaust fumes.

Last year, VW Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess apologized for using a phrase that appeared to play on a slogan with right-wing connotations.

“I feel ashamed for this spot — and for sure I speak for the whole workforce here,” VW labor leader and supervisory board member Bernd Osterloh said Wednesday. The incident must be “cleared up thoroughly” and workers insist that the responsibility for it doesn’t just get passed down the corporate ladder by VW’s top management, he said.

VW said it opposes any form of racism, xenophobia and discrimination, especially against the backdrop of its own corporate history. VW was founded in 1937 during the Nazi era.

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