Think “motoring awards” and chances are the words “Volkswagen Golf” are likely to come to mind almost immediately.
The German manufacturer has all but built its reputation on seven generations of the wildly popular compact since it replaced the Beetle in 1974.
Global sales sit around the 30-million mark and no model has failed to either win or be named runner-up in the European Car of the Year Awards.
Last year, it peaked with the Golf Mk7 winning European, World and Japan Car of the Year – providing some relief as Volkswagen was beset by mechanical headaches in other models, recalling 2.6 million cars worldwide in November.
Earlier last year, in Australia, VW recalled 34,000 cars with gearbox power supply issues which was linked – although cleared by a Victorian coroner – to the case of a Melbourne woman who died after being rear-ended by a truck.
Now, in a less than ideal start to 2014, VW has been dragged into a vote-rigging scandal involving the biggest motoring association in its home country, ADAC.
ADAC’s communications head Michael Ramstetter has admitted he “bumped up” the number of votes cast to make the VW Golf ADAC’s 2014 Car of the Year.
According to Bild am Sonntag, Ramstetter claimed 34,299 votes were cast for the Golf, when it was actually 3,409.
Unfortunately for all involved, the scandal may not be limited to 2014 alone.
Ramstetter also lied about how many participants were involved in the competition in 2012 and 2013, in order to make it appear more important.
The association is a 111-year-old institution in Germany. Among other things, it hosts the European Grand Prix and its fleet of yellow service vehicles – the Yellow Angels – are famous for their efficiency in rescuing motorists and medical patients.
Its “Gelber Engel” is – was – Germany’s top car award. Now, as ADAC was also forced to admit ballot papers from previous awards have been destroyed for “data protection reasons”, ADAC has a long road ahead of it to reclaim its integrity.
“Credibility and trust are our key commodity,” head of ADAC Karl Obermair told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Ramstetter has been sacked and ADAC are preparing an official apology to manufacturers.
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