German motoring club ADAC reveals ‘car of the year’ fraud

 

Berlin

Germany’s biggest motoring organisation was embroiled in a worsening and deeply embarrassing scandal today following revelations that its officials had for years massively falsified voting results in the country’s prestigious annual “car of the year” award competition.

The 19-million member Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil Club, known as the c, is Germany’s equivalent of the AA and Europe’s largest motoring organisation. In a nation renowned for worshipping the car, it has for decades served as a powerful political lobby and ostensibly as a champion of drivers’ interests. But today that reputation was shattered following an admission by Michael Ramstetter, the ADAC’s communications chief executive, that he had for years falsified voting results in the club’s annual so called “Golden Angel” competition – a highly regarded membership ballot which chooses Germany’s favourite car of the year.

Mr Ramstetter, 60, admitted to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung that he had increased the number of ADAC member votes tenfold for this year’s award which went to the Volkswagen Golf. “I have been bloody silly,” he  said.

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Instead of winning some 34,000 votes, as he had claimed, in reality only 3,400 ADAC members had voted for the car. Mr Ramstetter said that he was resigning from all positions he held at the ADAC which included editorship of the club magazine Motorwelt. He also admitted to falsifying ADAC “car of the year” voting figures in 2013 and 2012.

ADAC chief executive Karl Obermair said that Mr Ramstetter had made an “unforgivable error” and that external investigators would be used in an “intensive” inquiry into ADAC practice in an effort to clear up the affair.

Although the ADAC did not admit it, there were suspicions that its executives may have taken sizeable backhanders from Germany’s powerful car manufacturers in exchange for manipulating the figures. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt appealed to the ADAC to come clean and “lay all the cards on the table.”

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