Daimler expresses regret after China row involving senior executive

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[November 21, 2016]  BEIJING (Reuters) - Daimler AG  expressed regret on Monday for an incident in China that local media said involved a senior executive of the German luxury car maker making disparaging comments to people over a parking row.


The official People's Daily reported that Rainer Gaertner, who heads Daimler's local trucks and buses unit, had made insulting comments about Chinese people and used pepper spray during the altercation in Beijing. It did not say from where the information was sourced.

"We deeply regret this personal argument. The content of this argument does not represent at all the views of the company," Daimler Greater China said in a statement. The incident was being investigated by authorities and Daimler was fully co-operating with them, it said.

The Daimler statement did not provide any details of the incident. It also did not identify the executive or comment on the use of pepper spray.

Gaertner could not be immediately reached for comment by phone or email.

People's Daily said the German executive's row was with a Chinese driver at a residential community in Beijing's northeastern Shunyi District. Passersby were drawn to the quarrel and tried to defend the Chinese driver, it said.

The media reports prompted a spike in online chatter, with the outburst in the top 10 discussed topics on popular microblog Sina Weibo on Monday morning. Many users posted comments saying they would avoid buying Daimler cars.

Critical reports in official Chinese media have in the past hit the reputations of foreign brands and dragged down sales.

In June, the official Global Times criticized cosmetics firm Lancome, part of France's L'Oreal SA <OREP.PA>, for working with Hong Kong pro-democracy singer Denise Ho, sparking calls online in China to shun the firm's business. Lancome canceled a planned concert with the singer.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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