Zetsche finds out the hard way: Che's not funny to Miami's Cubans

Automotive News | January 13, 2012 - 3:32 pm EST

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche is now aware of the risks of giving a public speech using the kinds of whimsical props that Fiat's Sergio Marchionne has made famous.

Zetsche is in hot water with Miami's vocal Cuban-American community for displaying a photo of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara Tuesday during his first keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The photo of Guevara -- with a Mercedes logo Photoshopped onto Guevara's trademark beret -- was shown to emphasize what Zetsche said was a revolution happening in vehicle connectivity. Zetsche and Mercedes apologized this week for any offense that was given and emphasized that Mercedes planned no ad campaign using the image. It was one of many slides used during the presentation.

But several people in Miami's large Cuban exile community told the Miami Herald they would be looking for a brand other than Mercedes when it comes time to buy another car. Guevara, an Argentine, helped Fidel Castro establish a revolutionary leftist government in Cuba in 1959.

Note to Zetsche: not everyone can make like Marchionne and quote Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietsche in a speech and get it to work.

In fact, the Guevara image was far from the most offensive prop used by Mercedes during the program.

Before Zetsche arrived on stage, Mercedes simulated a series of text messages on the stage screen that used expletives and made reference to late-night partying. Sophomoric, at best.

David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.

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