Daimler on Monday removed a senior executive from his role running a Chinese business after he was accused of yelling racist abuse during an altercation over a car parking space in Beijing.
Chinese media reported that Rainer Gaertner, president of Daimler Trucks and Buses (China), on Sunday lost his temper during a quarrel and screamed: “I am in China one year already. The first thing I learned here is that all you Chinese are b*****ds.” He is also alleged to have pepper-sprayed an onlooker who tried to intervene.
Germany’s Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, said it “sincerely” apologised for the concerns raised by the incident.
Although the company did not identify Mr Gaertner by name, it said in a statement that a member of its management team at Daimler Trucks and Buses (China) had been “relieved” of his position.
“The nature of the dispute and in particular the manner in which it was conducted, irrespective of any comments alleged to have been made, is adjudged to be not only of concern to the public but viewed by us as detrimental to the standing of our company, unbecoming of a manager of our brand and prejudicial to our good name,” Daimler added.
The company said the dispute between the manager and an unnamed individual had been resolved in an “amicable manner”, and that the Chinese authorities had closed their investigations.
Daimler said Mr Gaertner remained a company employee, but his next position had not been decided.
According to Chinese state media reports, the incident involving Mr Gaertner on Sunday took place in Shunyi, a residential suburb in north-east Beijing that is popular with overseas executives.
The story has become a hot topic of conversation on Chinese social media.
“These kinds of foreigners take money from the Chinese people with one hand while also abusing them. They must hate China from the depths of their hearts,” wrote Kang Zuoru on Weibo. Ms Kang said she was friends with the passer-by who had allegedly been pepper-sprayed and who was apparently being treated in hospital for eye injuries.
Mr Gaertner did not respond to attempts to contact him.
His alleged comments come barely a month after Günther Oettinger, Germany’s European commissioner, made a speech in which he insulted Chinese people, using racial epithets to describe their appearance.
He later issued an apology for the speech, in which he had also insulted women, gay people and the Belgian region of Wallonia.
Relations between China and Germany have been tense of late. Among other issues, Germany last month withdrew approval for a Chinese investor group’s proposed takeover of semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron, which is based in Herzogenrath in North Rhine-Westphalia, citing concerns over national security.