Audi ad likening women to used cars in China backfires

An Audi commercial equating women to used cars has riled up consumers in China.

The Chinese commercial opens with a young couple on the cusp of getting married, when the groom’s mother suddenly interrupts the ceremony to inspect the bride.

After yanking the bride’s nose and ears, and prying open her jaw to inspect her teeth, the mom appears satisfied and gives the couple the OK. She casts one last disapproving look at the bride’s chest before the scene changes to an Audi driving through city streets as a voice-over says “an important decision must be made carefully.”

The ad ends with a plug for used Audi vehicles, with the male narrator saying: “Only with official certification can you be rest assured.”

It did not go over well.

A growing number of Chinese consumers have taken to Weibo, China’s Twitter, to slam the German carmaker. Many called the ad sexist and some even vowed to boycott Audi vehicles.

“This is unacceptable,” wrote one user, while another called it “disgusting.”

The Weibo hashtag “Audi second-hand car ad” had been viewed more than 300,000 times by midday Wednesday.

Michael Wilkes, Audi’s head of corporate communications in China, said the advert was produced by the used car division of parent company Volkswagen’s joint venture in China.

FAW-Volkswagen, the joint venture, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Most corporations do not have the concept of gender equality and neither do Chinese regulators,” Li Maizi, a feminist activist, told CNN.

The company can ill afford this speed bump. Audi sales in China were down 15% in the first half of 2017.

“So many powerful women in China are also potential customers for Audi, and this is how Audi is sending its message to buyers?” said Guo Zimeng, a Beijing-based lifestyle editor.

Not everyone is up in arms against Audi, however.

“I think people are being dramatic,” said Beijing resident Marla Yuan.

“If this ad compared a guy to a second hand car, people would undoubtedly say its funny and creative,” she added.

This is not the first time a commercial in China has gone viral for all the wrong reasons.

Last year, a Chinese firm apologized for a racist laundry detergent ad, in which a Chinese woman throws a black man covered in paint into a washing machine. The man emerges from the wash as a clean, light-skinned Chinese man.

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Police pull Fords from service over carbon monoxide fears

Some police say their Ford Motor SUV police cars are leaking exhaust fumes into their vehicles, causing officers to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Federal safety officials are looking into the allegations surrounding the Ford Police Interceptor, a version of the Ford Explorer modified for police use. They have yet to open a formal investigation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has already investigated more than 150 complaints from Ford Explorer owners about the smell of exhaust fumes in their SUVs. Ford has settled a class action lawsuit related to those complaints.

One officer in Newport Beach, California, passed out while driving his Interceptor in September 2015, according to police accident report. Brian McDowell’s Interceptor swerved across two lanes of oncoming traffic, nearly hitting another car head on, and crashed into a tree at 55 mph. McDowell has yet to return to work and he is suing the automaker.

The Austin, Texas, police department has already pulled 37 Interceptors from service. It has even hardwired carbon monoxide detectors into the Interceptors that are still on the road. The detectors have signaled high levels of carbon monoxide, an odorless gas, in at least six cases. The city is considering whether to replace its 400 or so Interceptors, although that would be difficult since they make up about 60% of its fleet.

“The safety of our officers and employees is our number one priority,” said city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo.

One Austin officer, Zachary LaHood, said he narrowly avoided crashing into another vehicle in March when he was overcome with fumes. He was able to stop the car in a parking lot without an accident. He has sued the automaker, and at least three other officers from other states are talking to his attorney about bringing their own cases. The potential plaintiffs include a 30-year old officer from Northern California who suffered a stroke, which can be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Ford says it is investigating the complaints, but so far has found no evidence of a problem.

“We have investigated and not found any carbon monoxide issue resulting from the design of our Police Interceptor Utility Vehicles,” Ford said in a statement. “We know police modify these vehicles, which can contribute to exhaust-related issues. We have provided instructions to help seal these modifications and are ready to inspect any vehicles with this concern. Also, we will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do.”

The attorney for McDowell and LaHood said this is a serious problem, for both police and the general public who drive the Explorer.

“It’s only a matter of time before an officer or member of the public gets killed,” said Brian Chase. Ford said the Interceptor and Explorer are different vehicles that have different engines, among other things, which means that a problem in one wouldn’t necessarily be found in the other.

Officials at NHTSA confirm that the agency is investigating both the police cars and the Ford Explorers.

The attorney who sued Ford over the Explorer exhaust complaints said his testing showed unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in the Explorer. But even he said they did not rise to levels that could cause people to pass out while driving.

“If [police] are getting enough carbon monoxide to pass out, there’s something very different with those vehicles,” said John Uustal, who brought a federal class action suit in 2014.

But Uustal said the level of exhaust getting into the Explorer still poses a health hazard, and can cause illness from prolonged exposure.

“Ford has never considered this a safety issue, but I believe it is,” said Uustal, who recently reached a settlement with Ford on the case. He said his initial client, a fire fighter from Fort Lauderdale, had used a carbon monoxide detector from his department in his car and found 120 parts per million of the gas. He said other tests he conducted as part of the suit regularly found 30 and 35 ppm.

“It clearly exceeds what are considered safe levels especially over a long period, which you will be in the car,” said Uustal.

— CNN’s Tony Marco contributed to this story.

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German government summons Daimler over emissions allegations

Daimler is the latest automaker to face questions over its diesel engines.

The German government summoned Daimler to appear before a commission on Thursday after local media reported that prosecutors were investigating possible cheating on emissions tests.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Wednesday that prosecutors were investigating two engines used in over 1 million cars sold in the U.S. and Europe.

The newspaper said that state prosecutors in Stuttgart, Daimler’s home town, were leading the inquiry. Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment.

The owner of Mercedes-Benz and Smart said it was cooperating fully with authorities, but declined to comment on specific accusations.

The automaker added that it saw no risks that regulators might revoke approval for its vehicles.

Shares in Daimler dropped as much as 2% on in early trading, before recovering some of their losses.

The commission that Daimler will appear before Thursday was established in 2015 to investigate Volkswagen’s diesel scandal.

The German automaker has admitted to fitting as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software that could cheat nitrogen oxide emissions tests.

Several other car makers have since been implicated in similar scandals.

— Sally Manuela Eshun contributed reporting.

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Volkswagen will sell cars in Iran for first time in 17 years

Volkswagen will sell cars in Iran for the first time in 17 years, taking advantage of the easing of sanctions.

The German automaker said Tuesday it’s starting to export cars to the country and will begin selling its Tiguan and Passat models in August.

Iran was cut off from the world economy for years due to strict trade sanctions. But a historic 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program led the U.S., Germany and other nations to ease those restrictions last year.

“By returning to Iran, the Volkswagen brand is filling in another blank spot on the global automotive map,” said Anders Sundt Jensen, Volkwagen’s Iran project manager, in a statement.

Volkswagen is betting there will be pent-up demand for German vehicles. It says the Iranian government estimates annual demand for new cars will hit three million in the long run, making it a bigger market than the U.K.

Iran’s population — at 80 million — is almost as big as Germany’s.

A survey conducted after the historic Iran nuclear deal was reached found that about 50% of Iranian respondents were hoping to purchase foreign cars or motorbikes. Most believed imported goods offered better quality, and Germany was considered the best source of imports.

Volkswagen isn’t the only European firm doing new business in Iran.

French oil firm Total signed a multi-billion dollar deal Monday to develop the country’s giant South Pars gas field. Total had been forced to abandon the gas field years ago due to sanctions.

The Total deal marked Iran’s first major Western investment since sanctions were eased.

Volkswagen is working with local automotive firm Mammut Khodro to sell its cars in Iran.

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Miami has some of best drivers in America, study claims

Buckle your set belts for this one, folks.

Miami, the Magic City, is considered one of the best driving cities in America, according to a new study.

QuoteWizard published a new study ranking the best and worst driving cities in America, ranking 75 cities, and Miami was fourth best behind Detroit, Providence and Orlando!

The final rankings are sum of weighted means calculated from these parameters:

  • Accidents
  • Speeding tickets
  • DUIs
  • Citations (running a red light, using a cellphone while driving, etc.)

Using this data, QuoteWizard ranked each US city from worst to best.

Top Driving Cities in U.S.

  1. Detroit
  2. Providence
  3. Orlando
  4. Miami
  5. Little Rock
  6. Allentown
  7. Baton Rouge
  8. Las Vegas
  9. Tulsa
  10. Birmingham

The worst driving cities were Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Riverside, Richmond and San Diego.

Sacramento is the capital of California. They’re also the capital of bad drivers. That’s right, Sacramento: you’ve earned the dubious honor of being America’s worst driving city. Sacramento finds itself in first due to the highest rate of traffic citations in the country. They’re also close to the top for accidents and DUI’s, at fourth. Yes, America’s largest tree canopy lines Sacramento’s streets, but the streets themselves are filled with dangerous drivers. Perhaps Sacramentans should consider commuting by boat on Sacramento’s numerous waterways, ala Venice. Fortunately, Sacramento’s sorry drivers can always take solace in the fact that they’re not from SoCal.

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