Published: Sun, March 17, 2019
Economy | By

Volkswagen chief apologises for use of phrase similar to a Nazi slogan

Volkswagen chief apologises for use of phrase similar to a Nazi slogan

Speaking at a company event in Germany on Tuesday, Herbert Diess used the expression "Ebit macht frei" while talking about the automaker's profits.

Diess said "Ebit macht frei" during an internal Volkswagen event, evoking memories of "Arbeit macht frei", the words that appeared prominently at the entrance of Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. Ebit is an acronym for "earnings before interest and taxes".

"It was in fact a very unfortunate choice of words and if I unintentionally hurt any feelings, I am truly sorry".

"I didn't intend to banalize the darkest page in history", he said to apologize after making the remarks on Italian radio Wednesday, Il Corriere della Sera reported.

"At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context", the CEO said in an emailed statement. Volkswagen is betting its future on electric cars He said his comments were meant to highlight Volkswagen's strong profits, not cause offense.

Volkswagen was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first auto.

Volkswagen was founded by the German Labour Front under Nazi rule in the 1930s and eventually admitted to using 15,000 slave workers during World War II. Within the Volkswagen Group, "brands with a higher margins have more freedom within the Group to make their own decisions".

"The statement of the CEO Herbert Diess is in this context considered inappropriate and hard to comprehend", VW's supervisory board said Friday, adding that it "strongly distances itself from this, but at the same time takes note of the immediate apology from Mr. Diess". German government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment. Diess has been CEO of Volkswagen since April a year ago.

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