Daimler China has relieved an executive from his position following accusations on social media that he made racial comments during a parking dispute.
According to a social media post, Rainer Gartner, head of Daimler Trucks and Buses (China) Ltd. — a subsidiary of Daimler AG headquartered in Beijing — told a Chinese driver “I’ve been in China one year already, and the first thing I learned is that all Chinese are bastards.”
A spokeswoman for Daimler Greater China told Sixth Tone in a written statement that the company had decided to part ways with Gartner following the incident. It said that the manner in which Gartner had conducted himself during the dispute was “detrimental to the standing of our company, unbecoming of a manager of our brand and prejudicial to our good name.”
“Such an incident reflects in no way the values of Daimler AG, and we sincerely apologize for the concerns raised by this matter,” the statement added.
According to the social media post, which appeared online around noon on Sunday, a resident of a luxury residential compound in northeastern Beijing was reversing into a parking space when a black Mercedes-Benz swiftly moved in and clinched the spot. The same post alleged that Gartner used pepper spray against a crowd of angry residents who gathered in the wake of the incident. Though screenshots of the message have been widely shared, Sixth Tone could not find the initial posting.
The driver of the German luxury car, who is believed to be Gartner and whom the post described as a middle-aged Caucasian man, then launched into his verbal attack. Gartner is in his early 50s.
Chinese social media users were quick to offer their opinions on the alleged incident, with one net user asserting, “As a high-level executive, what [Gartner] said represents the image of the company, so it’s not just a personal issue. Both he and the company should apologize to the public.”
Another netizen said the incident had prompted a reconsideration of the user’s upcoming car purchase: “I just decided to buy a car, but based on the company’s attitude toward the issue, Benz will be excluded from my list.”
Along with the barrage of comments, photos of Gartner with a car that is thought to have his license plate number were circulated online, as was an image claiming to reveal his telephone number and other contact information.
The incident was investigated by local police. When contacted by Sixth Tone on Monday, the person who answered the phone at the police station said she was unable to comment.
Beijing River Garden, the residential compound where the alleged incident took place, is popular among foreign city residents and is managed by Yujing New Century Property Management Co. Ltd., according to the compound’s website. A customer service representative from Beijing River Garden declined to comment for this story.
China is one of the most important markets for Daimler in the world, including for its Mercedes-Benz brand of luxury cars.
This article has been updated to reflect recent deveopments.
(Header image: A Daimler sign at the company’s annual general assembly in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2014. VCG)