A racist advertisement, aimed to promote the auto manufacturer’s new Golf 8, was posted on the official Volkswagen Instagram page.
The ad, which has since been deleted, featured a giant white hand emerging from outside of the frame. The hand pushes a well dressed Black man past the car, and it then flicks him inside of a restaurant. The name of the French restaurant? “Petit Colon,” which translates into Little Colonizer or Little Settler.
A short clip of the ad was posted on Twitter where a user added that the ad was, “not only racist it’s deeply unsettling.”
— HeyLina (@HeyLina0) May 19, 2020
Another tweet shows a different screenshot that further explains the ad, “Then German-language slogan “Der Neue Golf” (The New Golf) appears w/letters spelling ‘NEGER’ (German for n-word)”
VOLKSWAGEN racist ad explained: Black man stands by VW car. A white hand pushes him away and ‘flicks’ him into restaurant ‘Petit Colon’ (‘Little Colonist’ in French). Then German-language slogan “Der Neue Golf” (The New Golf) appears w/letters spelling ‘NEGER’ (German for N-word) pic.twitter.com/S3G9o2fY1I
— FDMillet (@FrancisDMillet) May 20, 2020
As if the commercial could get any worse, the large white hand that plucked the Black man made the “OK,” sign which has long been identified as a symbol for white power.
Volkswagen has since apologized for the racist ad.
In posting the official apology from the company, Jurgen Stackmann, head of Sales and Marketing for Volkswagen, said on Twitter that he will ensure “full transparency and consequences.”
Ich entschuldige mich aufrichtig als Einzelperson in meiner Funktion als Vorstandsmitglied bei Volkswagen Sales & Marketing. Hass, Rassismus und Diskriminierung haben bei Volkswagen keinen Platz! Ich werde in diesem Fall persönlich für volle Transparenz und Konsequenzen sorgen! pic.twitter.com/mlAIgrFQWs
— Jürgen Stackmann (@jstackmann) May 20, 2020
The company apology was released in German and translated into English by American news outlets, including CNN. In part, it reads, “We posted a racist advertising video on Volkswagen’s Instagram channel,” Stackman wrote, “We understand the public outrage at this. Because we’re horrified, too.”
The statement continues, “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.”
According to the CNN article, Volkswagen was founded in 1937 under the Nazi regime and used slave labor from concentration camps to build vehicles in its early years. It is now the world’s biggest automaker, delivering nearly 11 million vehicles in 2019. The group makes cars under the VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, and Porsche brands.