Fiat has been forced to apologise to China after employing Richard Gere, the Hollywood star, Buddhist and campaigner for Tibetan independence, to feature in its latest television ad.
In the 45-second Lancia Delta commercial, Gere drives one of the vehicles from the centre of Hollywood to the Potala Palace, the former Tibetan residence of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959. He meets a child dressed as a Tibetan monk and the pair plunge their hands in the Himalayan snow outside the palace. The camera then cuts to the slogan: "The power to be different."
The ad has enraged the Chinese, who say that it advocates Tibetan independence. Some critics claimed that its slogan is a rallying cry for political change.
Fiat, which is bidding to expand its operations into China, was forced to release a public statement distancing itself from "Mr Gere's social and political views".
The fashion house Dior recently ditched Sharon Stone as its face in the Far East after the actress blamed the Sichuan earthquake on divine retribution for China's policies in Tibet.
The offending advertisement