Facing dented public trust over a falsified "favorite car" award and apparent misuse of emergency rescue helicopters, Germany's major motorists' organization ADAC has pledged reform and called an emergency meeting.
Germany's largest motorists' organization has been uncomfortably close to the front pages for most of January, either concerning a manipulated "vote" on German drivers' "favorite car," or the misuse of emergency helicopters set aside to deal with road traffic accidents.
ADAC President Peter Meyer faced the press in Munich on Wednesday, pledging far-reaching reforms and also an extraordinary general meeting - the group's first since 1948.
"We are deeply affected by these current events and are convinced that only a comprehensive package of measures can restore the ADAC's credibility," Meyer said, telling reporters that the motorists' body was planning "fundamental reforms [that] can remedy the current weak spots."
Meyer did not issue a date for the general meeting, which is unlikely to bring together all of the roughly 19 million Germans who hold ADAC membership - many of whom buy into the club primarily for its roadside assistance program.
Social Democrat Justice Minister Heiko Maas, whose portfolio also incorporates consumer protection, called Wednesday's pledge a "necessary first step" toward the ADAC's regaining public trust.
"Consumers must be able to rely on the fact that product tests and surveys are not being manipulated," Maas said, alluding to the fixed 2014 "favorite car" award, which prompted the resignation of communications head Michael Ramstetter earlier this month.
Bogey Golf vote, chopper charges
Volkswagen's Golf was named "Germany's favorite car" - for the second year in a row - on January 13 by the ADAC. The Süddeutsche Zeitung daily questioned the results the following day, claiming that only 3,409 votes were cast for the winning car - not 34,299 as ADAC had reported. Ramstetter, in charge of the ADAC magazine that initially published the results, resigned on January 19.
As well as this blight on the annual "Yellow Angel" award, named after the ADAC's prime color, for most popular car, the organization has repeatedly made the front pages for misusing its emergency rescue helicopters.
So far, the ADAC has openly admitted to "around 30" examples of senior club members using emergency helicopters to attend official engagements. According to the group, its statutes allow this "in justified, exceptional circumstances."
One curious example confirmed by the ADAC on Wednesday dated back to 2006, when a helicopter flew low over Eintracht Braunschweig's stadium, its rotors helping to dry a waterlogged pitch before a second-tier Bundesliga football game against Dynamo Dresden.
Also on Wednesday, the newspapers Bild and Tageszeitung both reported that the son of a female "top ADAC manager" flew to Egypt in a rescue plane with a friend after missing their flight. Bild reported that this explained the executive's "very hushed and surprising" resignation from the ADAC in February 2013.
By numbers of members, the ADAC is the world's second-largest motorists' club, behind AAA in the US.
msh/mkg (AFP, dpa)