German auto club head quits in scandal over poll

BERLIN (AP) — The president of Germany's main auto club resigned Monday, succumbing to weeks of pressure that built up after it emerged that the organization manipulated a poll on the country's favorite car.

Peter Meyer said he no longer wanted to be held "solely responsible for the mistakes and manipulations of high-ranking executives." A statement said he had faced "attacks and defamation" that had hurt both the auto club and his family.

ADAC, which boasts 18 million members in a country of auto enthusiasts, acknowledged last month that the number of participants in its favorite-car poll was inflated. Its communications chief, Michael Ramstetter, admitted to the manipulation and quit.

The organization said the auditors it appointed to investigate found that the rankings in the poll were tampered with through deliberate changes or via incorrect data processing — contrary to ADAC's original claim — and likely were in previous years too. Despite the tampering, Volkswagen's Golf was confirmed as number one by Deloitte.

In recent weeks, the club, which offers breakdown help, safety tests and many other services, also has faced allegations of inappropriate use of its helicopters and medical evacuation aircraft. ADAC said its leadership had opened suspension proceedings against Meyer on Monday morning, shortly before his resignation, citing the disappointing results of the club's crisis management.

Heiko Maas, Germany's justice minister who is also responsible for consumer protection, said the resignation "won't be enough in itself" and that ADAC "must work to earn back the lost confidence of its members."

To do that, Maas said ADAC needs to pursue "the greatest possible transparency and fundamental reforms." ADAC said a successor to Meyer will be chosen at a regular annual meeting in May.

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