Ferrari has been dragged into a PR blunder this week after a video emerged of one of the company’s latest models doing wheel spins on a 600-year-old, Ming Dynasty wall in China.
Initially thought to have been arranged by the car marque itself, the stunt was in fact organised by an employee at a local dealership who is not on the Ferrari payroll. While no structural damage seems to have been caused by lifting the car on to the wall, tyre marks were left on the monument and the video was seen as an insult to Chinese culture and tradition.
Anger in China was first directed at the car firm – but then turned to local government officials who, it’s been reported, were paid an £8,000 fee for the hire of the location. However, the government refuted this: “No enterprise or individual is allowed to use the city ramparts in Nanjing for commercial purposes,” said Captain Wu Jing of the Nanjing Cultural Relics Bureau.
In the communist country, Ferraris are unsurprisingly regarded as toys for the privileged few, and this stunt – apparently arranged to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the brand’s appearance in China – has utterly backfired.
Both sides managed to make matters worse by squabbling over who arranged what and who paid whom, maintaining the incident’s presence in the spotlight.
While no business can fully control how its brand is used, there should at least be clear guidelines put in place for all staff and affiliates to try and ensure that blunders such as these can be avoided.
To its credit, Ferrari was fairly quick to apologise and did pledge to help repair any damage caused by the car. But the faux pas is likely to be remembered for a while and – in China at least – may have done the brand some lasting damage.