Daimler removes China truck executive after parking lot argument

Daimler AG sign is pictured at the IAA truck show in Hanover, Germany, on Sept 22, 2016.
Daimler AG sign is pictured at the IAA truck show in Hanover, Germany, on Sept 22, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - German luxury car maker Daimler AG apologised for a parking-lot dispute between an executive of its China trucks and buses unit and a resident in Beijing, removing the manager from his position after the spat aroused anger among social media users and prompted critical commentaries in state media.

Daimler said that even though the spat was a private matter, the manner in which it was conducted was "detrimental to the standing of our company, unbecoming of a manager of our brand and prejudicial to our good name."

The Stuttgart, Germany-based company apologised for the concerns raised and said that authorities have closed their inquiries into the matter.

While Daimler declined to identify the executive by name, local media identified him as Rainer Gaertner, president of Daimler Trucks & Buses China.

The official People's Daily said that the German executive had made insulting comments about Chinese people and used pepper spray during the altercation in Beijing. It did not say from where the information was sourced.

Attempts to reach Gaertner through Daimler were unsuccessful. The company declined to make him available for an interview.

People's Daily said the German executive's row was with a Chinese driver at a residential community in Beijing's northeastern Shunyi District.

Passersby were drawn to the quarrel and tried to defend the Chinese driver, it said.

The media reports prompted a spike in online chatter, with the outburst in the top 10 discussed topics on popular microblog Sina Weibo on Monday morning. Many users posted comments saying they would avoid buying Daimler cars.

Daimler counts China as its biggest market, accounting for about one-fifth of global sales of its Mercedes-Benz brand in the first 10 months of this year.

The company set up Daimler Trucks and Buses China in 2013 as a standalone unit to increase its focus on commercial vehicles in the country.

Critical reports in official Chinese media have in the past hit the reputations of foreign brands and dragged down sales.

In June the official Global Times criticised cosmetics firm Lancome, part of France's L'Oreal SA, for working with Hong Kong pro-democracy singer Denise Ho, sparking calls online in China to shun the firm's business. Lancome cancelled a planned concert with the singer.