BMW of North America LLC is under fire from a gay-advocacy automotive Web site - for advertising in gay and lesbian magazines.
Gaywheels.com calls BMW hypocritical. The company targets "the deep pockets" of gays and lesbians by advertising in publications such as The Advocate, the Web site says. But BMW doesn't offer its employees domestic-partner benefits.
"Gay and lesbian consumers want to spend their money with gay-friendly companies," says Joe LaMuraglia, Gaywheels.com publisher. "A lot of people will see companies advertising in gay media and assume they are gay-friendly."
Gaywheels.com lists about 30 gay-friendly and nine non-gay-friendly vehicle brands, depending on whether they provide domestic-partner benefits. The Web site says it is still investigating seven other auto brands.
A BMW spokeswoman says the company does not offer domestic-partner benefits in an effort to comply with laws in New Jersey, where BMW North America is based. But many companies with headquarters in New Jersey, including Subaru of America Inc., provide such benefits.
Automakers spent about $5 million to advertise last year in two leading gay publications, The Advocate and Out, according to an Advertising Age analysis of data from TNS Media Intelligence.
Marketing to gay consumers has exposed car companies, notably Ford Motor Co., to attacks from interest groups such as the American Family Association.
At the same time, gay-rights organizations are pressing automakers to adopt nondiscriminatory policies. Last December, the Human Rights Campaign issued its first "Buyers Guide for Equality." The guide is based on the group's annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates car companies and other corporations in areas such as employment policies, advertising and event sponsorships.
The guide did not evaluate BMW. It assigns perfect ratings of 100 points to Ford, DaimlerChrysler AG and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.