German automaker giant Mercedes-Benz apologized on Tuesday (April 16) for the ordeal of a Chinese car buyer who claimed to have been mistreated by an authorized dealer in a viral video that sparked outrage from the consumer.
The woman, whose name was not revealed, said she bought a new Mercedes from an authorized dealer in the northern city of Xi'an, only to find out that oil was leaking on the showroom floor.
A video was posted showing her sitting on the hood of a car in the showroom and angrily accusing the sales team of dodging their repayment requirements.
The woman also alleged in subsequent media interviews that she originally wanted to pay cash for the car, but was pressured by the dealership to take out a loan that came with high fees.
"We are very sorry for what happened," said Hubertus Troskas, a board member and chief operating officer for Daimler, Mercedes' parent company.
"We have reached an agreement with the customer and she will continue to be a Mercedes customer," he added, speaking to reporters on the first day of the Shanghai Motor Show.
But the angry shopper said in a Chinese media interview published on Monday that she would continue to refuse any offer under Mercedes, saying she wanted the matter to be fully investigated by consumer protection authorities.
Daimler, as well as government officials in Xi'an, have already announced investigations.
"This is nothing we approve of. We follow the law," Troskas said on the opening day of the Chinese auto show.
"There is good consumer protection in China and we want all our distributors to work with the letter of the law and the ethics of our brand," he said.
"We clearly have to apologize. That was not handled properly."
The woman alleged that when she asked for a refund, the dealership first offered to repair the leak and then to install a new engine.
Their complaints triggered a barrage of online comments supporting Chinese web users, with many reporting their own horror stories of consumers.
The episode is the latest in a series of cases to show foreign brands the power of Chinese Internet users.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz apologized for "hurting the feelings" of the Chinese people after their Instagram account used a quote from Tibetan exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who is vilified as a separatist by Beijing.
Also last year, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana apologized to Chinese consumers after their products were withdrawn from lucrative Chinese e-commerce platforms for a post on Instagram's brand, considered culturally offensive in China.
And the Marriott group's website in China was closed by authorities after a customer questionnaire listed Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries, irritating Beijing. Marriott apologized and changed the text.
Global automakers have flocked to the Shanghai Auto Show amid a rare drop in sales in the world's largest vehicle market, stemming from a number of economic and trade factors.