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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Carmakers including Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) were scrambling late on Sunday after China's annual consumer rights day TV show said the firms oversold repairs and spare parts to drivers.
The annual "3.15" investigative special on China Central Television (CCTV), similar to the CBS network's "60 Minutes" in the United States, also criticized Jaguar Land Rover [TAMOJL.UL] for gearbox problems in some cars.
China is the world's top auto market, and media criticism can dent reputations and drag on sales. iPhone maker Apple Inc (AAPL.O) made a rare apology in 2013 after criticism on the show of its after-sales service.
German carmaker Volkswagen, a target two years ago, was further criticized in an article before the show for its handling of a recall of its Sagitar model car.
"We have paid close attention to CCTV reporting ... and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers," said Volkswagen China spokeswoman Larissa Braun.
Nissan's China joint venture said it would set up a team to investigate the allegations and strengthen the regulation of its service teams, according to a statement on its official microblog. Daimler declined immediate comment.
Land Rover apologized to its customers on its official microblog and said it was working to resolve the issue.
Multinational firms and their public relations teams often scramble to respond to the allegations after seeing their company named and shamed for the first time on the night itself.
The popular show, which singled out camera maker Nikon Corp (7731.T) last year, also said fast food chain Xiabuxiabu (0520.HK) had used pig's blood as a cheaper substitute for duck's blood - a popular hotpot delicacy.
The firm said in a statement it would investigate the allegations and suspend sales of duck blood products.
Some firms have pushed out cut-price deals to consumers in the run-up the event to win over consumers in case they are targeted on the show.
CCTV itself has come under fire in China over the last couple of years, with some consumers rushing to defend its targets or simply changing channel.
But marketing experts said that without damage control the impact of such shows in China could damage companies severely.
"The 3.15 show still packs a punch to the firms targeted, and a poor or flippant response from a targeted company can evoke consumer outrage," said James Feldkamp, chief executive officer of consumer watchdog MingJian.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Sue-Lin Wong; Additional reporting by Jake Spring in BEIJING; Editing by Ruth Pitchford