After the scandal surrounding an advertising video that was perceived as racist, Volkswagen tightened internal processes and set up an “ethics board” – the automobile company did not draw any personal conclusions.
VAfter the scandal surrounding an advertising video that was perceived as racist, olkswagen revised its internal processes and wanted to raise employee awareness. Legal chief Hiltrud Werner said on Thursday at a conference call with journalists that the investigation by the internal auditing department had shown that racist motives did not play a role in the creation of the advertising film. However, a lack of sensitivity and inadequacies in the processes would have meant that the clip could be published. VW would only draw personnel consequences if the rules of conduct were deliberately and knowingly violated.
“Also on behalf of the board of directors, I would like to apologize for the fact that we have hurt people through a lack of intercultural sensitivity,” explained Werner. “Here, values that Volkswagen stands for have been violated.” As a consequence, Volkswagen intends to set up an independent “ethics board” made up of experts to examine the advertising messages for sensitive topics.
The board had discussed the video on Tuesday. Because of the turbulence around CEO Herbert Diess at the beginning of the week, VW had postponed the information to the public.
Understood as an allusion to European colonial history
In the clip, a dark-skinned man is shown in front of a golf club, being pushed roughly around by an oversized hand. The hand finally snaps him into a building with the words Petit Colon “(little settler) above the entrance. This was understood as an allusion to European colonial history.
The commercial sparked sharp criticism in the media and made headlines around the world. VW was faced with allegations of racism. The reputation, which had already been damaged by the diesel scandal, was further damaged. VW apologized.
The advertising film also caused unrest in the VW workforce. Works council chief Bernd Osterloh said he was ashamed of the Instagram spot. “The clip is disgusting and there is no excuse,” he wrote on LinkedIn. The shop stewards in the VW plants also referred to this video when they accused the management of a “marketing and communication disaster” last week. The criticism had led to Diess having to justify itself to the supervisory board.
On Monday he had to hand over the management of the main VW brand to Ralf Brandstätter, who was already in charge of day-to-day business. Diess remains CEO and is to continue to manage the brand group in which the volume brands VW, Skoda and Seat are combined. On LinkedIn, he promised to coordinate more closely with the works council in the future in order to reduce fears in the workforce.