UPDATE: On July 20, in response to public outcry over its advertisement that compared women to used cars, Audi China’s second-hand car division released an apology on its official WeChat account.
Here is the statement:
Recently, an ad about Audi’s second-hand cars has sparked controversy online. In response to that, we accept all criticism and suggestions and have removed the ad immediately. We now would like to offer our sincere apology to the public. When creating the ad, we did not pay enough attention to some of the details, which resulted in a commercial containing an element that is disrespectful to female consumers. We sincerely apologize for it and are thankful for the supervision from the press and the public.
An Audi video advertisement making an analogy between women and second-hand cars has triggered controversy and rage online in China on Monday.
Lianxia, a user from China’s microblog Weibo, posted the advertisement of Audi’s second-hand car platform yesterday. This user reported seeing the “disgusting” advertisement in a Wanda theater, and accused it of “seriously materializing women.”
In this 30-second video, a bride and a bridegroom are about to get married, when they are suddenly interrupted by the bridegroom’s mother. She rushed to her future daughter-in-law to examine her nose, ears and teeth to ensure she has not gone through any plastic surgery. Finally, the bridegroom’s mother approves of the bride, and everyone looks relieved. Then the image of Audi’s online platform for second-hand cars appears, and a voice-over says, “An important decision must be made carefully. Assured by official certificate.”
The post went viral, as shocked Weibo users couldn’t withhold their anger. Many said the bride was treated in a humiliating manner. More were angry about the analogy between women and used cars, which implied women are merely a product in a marriage and those who had plastic surgeries are fake or damaged goods. Some questioned if Audi applies double standards to the China market—such an ad is unimaginable in Europe.
“I’ll boycott Audi from now on because of this ad,” one commenter wrote. “How could a large company hold such values?!”
“I’m disgusted by this ad,” another user said. “How come Audi doesn’t have any judgment?”
Within a few hours, the post was re-tweeted almost 30,000 times, with over 10,000 comments and 17,000 likes.
Several local media outlets reported trying to contact Audi, but didn’t get any reply. The official Weibo account of Audi’s second-hand car platform closed its comment area.
However, the video in Lianxia’s post soon became inaccessible.
It has not been long since Audi’s last public relation crisis in China. On a global press conference in March, when briefing China market, Audi failed to include Taiwan and some controversial territories as part of China in the map. Thousands of angry commenters attacked Audi in its official Weibo account. Audi later posted an apology on its website.
Audi’s China business is also in a vulnerable position now. It just reported a 12 percent slump in sales in the first half of 2017, due to a battle with its own dealers. Although Audi still holds the top position in China’s luxury car market, Benz and BMW are narrowing the gap, both reporting double-digit growth, while Audi has been struggling to appeal to younger customers in big cities.