Tuesday, June 18, 2024

VW dealership apologizes after backlash against photo bearing Nazi images

A Volkswagen dealership in Coyoacán, Mexico City, has apologized for displaying a photograph of Nazi Germany in its offices after news of the photo made the rounds on social media over the weekend. 

But the apology wasn’t enough for Volkswagen México, which terminated its relationship with the dealer soon after.

The photo shows Adolf Hitler inaugurating the new Volkswagen Beetle against a backdrop of swastikas in 1938.

“That photograph, which until yesterday was shown in the administrative area of ​​the dealership’s offices, is part of a photographic collection of nine images that show the different stages through which the Volkswagen Type 1 sedan … passed, an extraordinary engineering feat at the time and one of the best-selling cars in the world,” the dealership explained Monday in a statement.

It said the rest of the photographs in the administrative area show other stages of production of one of the most beloved cars in Mexico and the world, regardless of its origin.

The iconic Volkswagen Beetle, a product of Nazi Germany.
The iconic Volkswagen Beetle, a product of Nazi Germany.

“The image in question does not seek to condone one of the most cruel and inhumane eras in recent history,” the dealership said, and called the Nazi ideology “enormously harmful to Europe and the whole world, and which certainly does not represent [that of] any of the employees and workers of the company.” 

But Volkswagen México decided to end its commercial and business relationship with the Coyoacán dealership.

“Volkswagen’s philosophy is based on fundamental values ​​of equity, respect, inclusion, of being able to really bring society to the common good and this leads us to act accordingly,” said Edgar Estrada of Volkswagen México. “This is what allows us to continue building our Volkswagen brand in this country, looking not only to the present but looking forward with great respect, toward society, toward our customers, our dealerships and toward our entire family.” 

The tweet and accompanying photo that sparked the controversy was posted on Sunday. It read: “Dear @Volkswagen_MX it causes sadness and deep concern that your memory of history is an apology for racism. The photos were taken today at your Coyoacán branch.”

The German Embassy in Mexico got involved, responding “We condemn this disrespectful propaganda in the strongest possible terms. The embassy is in contact with @Volkswagen_MX about this.” 

As did the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization headquartered in Los Angeles.

“On behalf of our more than 400,000 members around the world, we demand that, as a German company, you enforce the law that prohibits the display of Nazi symbols,” read the letter addressed to Steffen Reiche, president of the executive council of Volkswagen México, and newly appointed CEO of the Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg, Germany, Ralf Brandstetter.

“Volkswagen, the ‘People’s Car’, was a Nazi concept. German cars in Mexico are unacceptable if they come with the swastika,” said the center, which is known for Holocaust research and remembrance, hunting Nazi war criminals, combating anti-Semitism, and its Museum of Tolerance.

The Coyoacán dealership was founded in 1968, a year after the first Mexican Volkswagen factory began operations in Puebla. 

Source: El Universal (sp), Motorpasión (es)

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