BMW's Mini faced backlash from Chinese internet users after workers at its booth allegedly showed discrimination towards local visitors. The incident happened during Mini's 300 ice cream giveaway promotion at the 2023 Shanghai Auto Show.
The said incident sparked an uproar on China's social media platform, Weibo, with "BMW Mini" becoming the second most-searched topic with over 93 million views, backed by pictures, videos, and angry comments. One video showed two Chinese workers refusing to give ice cream to local visitors, only to offer it to a Western attendee moments later, Automotive News Europe reported.
Gallery: Mini Concept Aceman
Mini is said to have apologised on its official Weibo account, stating that the incident was caused by poor internal management and that training would be improved.
According to a person familiar with the incident interviewed by Automotive News Europe, the booth had finished giving out 300 servings of ice cream meant for visitors when the incident occurred, and the foreigner in the video was a BMW employee. The workers involved were said to be temporary staff hired locally for the show, not BMW employees.
China is quite important to BMW and other German automakers, hence their participation at the Shanghai Auto Show, with a market populated with bullish domestic rivals. The automaker also emphasised how China was ahead of the curve in auto trends.
However, Chinese consumers have become increasingly critical of foreign companies or local businesses that they perceive to have slighted China or not respected its territorial claims. Such criticism has resulted in consumer boycotts in the past.
The British marque showcased the all-electric Cooper SE Convertible in Shanghai, as well as Spike, the automaker's new personal assistant, and the new Mini Concept Aceman that made its debut last year. The latter previews the first all-electric crossover model in the new Mini family, embodying future design language dubbed "Charismatic Simplicity." Mini said that this design "focuses on the essentials and reinterprets the creative use of space typical of the brand."