High-ranking Volkswagen executive Jürgen Stackmann says when he first saw a video promoting the Golf 8 he thought it was “fake” or an act of “sabotage”.
The comments come after the Wolfsburg-based firm apologised for the “rightly criticised internet clip” promoting the Golf 8, saying it planned to “take a number of actions” to prevent such an advertisement from being approved in future.
The short video depicted a large white hand picking up and flicking a black man away from a Golf 8. He is then pushed into a restaurant called “Petit Colon”, which can be translated to “Little Settler” or “Little Colonist.”
Stackmann, member of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars board of management responsible for marketing and after sales, said the brand’s controls were “clearly insufficient when it comes to ethical judgment”.
“We recognise that we have to question with much greater sensitivity whether content could potentially be discriminatory, offensive or disturbing for people,” he said.
Stackmann added he was “deeply shocked” when he first saw the advert.
“When a colleague called me at 11 pm on May 19 and then sent me the link, my first thought was: that must be a fake. My second thought was: someone has hacked our account. I was deeply shocked and asked myself: was it sabotage or have we really made such a huge blunder unintentionally?” he said.
The executive added that, apart from “mistakes in the process chain”, there were also clearly “shortcomings in creating sensitivity among employees”.
“Despite our diverse and international teams, a racist video was produced. Our investigations revealed no indications of racist intentions on the part of the team and the people involved. But that doesn’t make things much better,” Stackmann said.
VW said it would establish a “permanent approval checkpoint at our company and on the agency side”. As part of its investigation, the German firm looked at “around 400 files with a data volume of more than 16,5 GB” and conducted interviews with “employees, primarily in marketing, procurement and the legal department, as well as with the external agencies involved”.
“I again wish to apologise to everyone whose feelings have been hurt by this thoughtless spot. That was a wake-up call. It’s our duty to fight racism every day,” Stackmann added.