German car industry rocked by vote-rigging in auto prize

Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:57am EST
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By Erik Kirschbaum and Edward Taylor

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's ADAC car club, Europe's largest and most influential, said on Monday revelations it had falsified results of its annual car award struck at the core of its credibility and critics raised questions about its car safety tests.

Volkswagen said it was considering giving back the award.

ADAC communications director Michael Ramstetter resigned in disgrace after conceding he manipulated the results of the car club's coveted "Yellow Angel" award for Germany's favorite car, which was won last week by the Volkswagen Golf model.

"We've got our work cut out for us to repair the tarnished reputation," said ADAC managing director Karl Obermair, who called Ramstetter's actions "an inexcusable mistake".

"We're very sorry," added Obermair, personally humiliated himself after he initially scolded media for reporting doubts about ADAC's vote-counting. "This strikes at the very core of our existence. Our goal is to restore our credibility."

ADAC has over 18 million members. Its Yellow Angel award can give a fillip to sales in a competitive domestic market.

ADAC conceded that Ramstetter, the editor of ADAC's popular "ADAC Motorwelt" magazine that calls itself Europe's biggest monthly with 18 million readers, massively inflated the results of votes, saying 34,299 motorists had voted for the Golf as Germany's favorite car when it had only been 3,409 votes.

ADAC, normally a bastion of integrity whose car test reports are followed closely in a country with a deep affinity for its automobiles, said the order of the results was not tampered with - only the total number of votes.   Continued...

People walk inside the ADAC headquarter in Munich January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle