Bad Translation Turns Racing Product Racist then Racy
Audi learned the hard way that its PR firm lacks cultural sensitivity and professional linguistic ability. Many car blogs (such as this one) reported this week that the German auto company recently released a car with the name “White Power.” After the controversy broke, Audi released the following statement and apology:
Dear visitors, readers and customers,
We are very sorry and unfortunate for what has actually happened and is currently happening to our first press report. Due to a mistranslation of our latest project car – the Audi RS6 V10 biturbo – there were lots of radical right-wing rumors on all different blogs and pages that received our first press report. We distance ourselves from the project title – it was done by our press agency which obviously mistranslated our German project name into English. Furthermore we distance ourselves from anything that has to do with that group synonym and we would also like to say sorry if anyone got personally touched.
The AVUS PERFORMANCE Team
With such clumsy communication in that release, Audi apparently still has a little more to learn. Audi should certainly have some professional native English speaking translators work on all future translations of brands, press releases, and apologies so as not to “personally touch” anyone in the future. This is not the most embarrassing error that could have been made in the apology, but similar or worse wording in other situations could result in bad translations that result in unintentional innuendo and insults that can be just as damaging as this bad translations that resulted in perceived racial insensitivity.
Yes, that is reading way too much into the poor wording. Fortunately, this somewhat sloppy apology is certain to resolve more problems than it causes – sometimes customers understand when they are reading sloppy communication from non-native speakers and sometimes they don’t. Most people will assume that Audi meant to say “personally offended” or “personally affected” instead of “personally touched.”
Even more optimistically, the awkward wording of the apology could actually be a stroke of genius in PR damage control intended to emphasize that the German decision makers at Audi headquarters are not native English speakers and therefore Audi should not be held accountable for poor English translations.