Foot in Mouth Disease Pandemic at Audi

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

It’s the Audi version of the swine flu: foot in mouth disease. It has reached pandemic proportions at the four-ringed brand. First, Audi of America’s Prez Johann De Nysschen called (rightly or wrongly) the Volt “ a car for idiots,” insulting green leanings and national pride. Now, Audi Finland’s sales chief Esko Kiesi forgot that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. In an interview with the Finnish woman’s magazine, Anna, Audi’s Finnish sales chief revealed that “Technical jobs can’t be mastered by women without the help of a man.” And that was one of the more benign statements. In a woman’s magazine.

Women are a bit like cars, quoth Kiesi, “the looks of a car are very dependent on the wheels and the suspension. With women, it’s shoes.”

In the world according to Kiesi, “a woman loses her shape if the heels are lower than 7 centimeters.”

As far as relationships go, “if a woman refuses to iron and clean up the house, the relationship is coming to an end.”

The perfect age of a woman? According to Kiesi, it’s the age of the man, divided by two, plus seven. The Finnish portal Finnland on-line calculated that “the suitable woman for Kiesi, who is 59 years old, would be between 36 and 37 years.”

According to Der Spiegel, the quotes unleashed “a storm of protest” in the Northern country. Finally, Kiesi was blown away by the tornado and he resigned.

An Audi spokesperson tried to distance the company as far as possible. This was “the private opinion” of Mr. Kiesi, it doesn’t reflect at all Audi’s position vis-à-vis the fairer sex. If at all, Kiesi is a Wolfsburg problem, because “Audi Finland doesn’t belong to Ingolstadt, they are owned by the Volkswagen Group.” (Lame, very lame.) Finland’s Minister of Culture, Stefan Wallin, who is also responsible for equality issues, says the resignation was “the right move.”

Anybody who has ever been on the inside of Volkswagen knows that these views are commonplace. The inexcusable sin Kiesi committed? He got caught.

Foot in mouth disease seems to be a genetic issue at Audi. The old-timers amongst us still fondly recall when Audi USA’s sales chief had to comment on the sudden acceleration syndrome that afflicted Audis in the late 80s. He said “those Americans just can’t drive.” He was recalled to Germany, where he was put in charge of Volkswagen’s advertising department as penance.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Anonymous Anonymous on Sep 06, 2009

    "Wonder what his thoughts are on Susan Docherty?" Is she that Buick VP? If yes, and having seen her recent clueless comments on future product, I predict Buick will follow Oldsmobile, Saturn and Pontiac in the scrap heap, and so will hopefully she. And of all the brands above, I will feel sorry for Pontiac only- maybe for Olds a little. But sure not for Saturn and Buick.

  • John Horner John Horner on Sep 07, 2009

    Sexist paternalistic jacka**** at the top levels of a German company? No, couldn't be!

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