Auto distributor affirms ‘accident’ on headscarf

Auto distributor affirms ‘accident’ on headscarf

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Auto distributor affirms ‘accident’ on headscarf

Agah Uğur (L), CEO of Borusan Holding, and Eşref Biryıldız, executive board chairman, defy discriminatory allegations against their company at a press meeting in Istanbul.

Borusan, the car distributor cooperating with BMW and Mini Cooper in Turkey, officially confirmed a company brand manager has used statements which “could be interpreted as discrimination” against people wearing headscarves, according to the company’s top executive. 

 “We can never accept the statements our brand manager made to a reporter last week,” Agah Uğur, the chief executive of Borusan Holding told a press meeting in Istanbul, adding that Hakan Bayülgen, the brand manager has resigned from his post. 

Previously, BMW’s Turkey distributor was accused of withdrawing from sponsorship of a TV show because a headscarfed woman appeared with a MINI Cooper car, Yeni Şafak, a Turkish daily, reported on Dec. 28. 
The withdrawal decision was “not only due to the headscarf issue and it would make the same decision for political parties too,” Bayülgen said, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, the brand manager’s approach was unacceptable for us as he made connections between headscarf wearing and politics,” Uğur said.

Borusan’s sponsorship deal was with Burcu Çetinkaya and Çiçek Güney, two women car racers and the company had no direct connection with Kanal 24 show “Araba Sevdası” (Love for Car), Uğur said. 
Çetinkaya presented a test drive of a MINI Cooper alongside Yeni Şafak journalist Merve Sena Kılıç who was wearing a headscarf. 

The real reason behind the decision to step back from sponsoring the two racers was the need for budget cuts in 2012, according to Uğur. However, the manager’s personal statements were not representing an ideology shared by the company. 

As the company’s business volume shrank due to a hike in special consumption taxes (SCT) on import motor vehicles in November, Borusan decided to cut its budget by 40 percent for 2012 and withdraw from sponsoring the rally racers, Uğur said. “After the allegations came out last week, we have conducted an investigation and visited the newspaper.”

Borusan was not sure “whether the statements were recorded by the reporter or whether such statements were ever made,” another company executive told the Hürriyet Daily News. “All we wanted was to apologize and put an end to rumors.”

Borusan “mismanaged the sponsorship process of the two Turkish rally racers,” Uğur said. 
Following the report on the issue last week, head of Motorcycle Federation of Turkey, Bekir Yunus said the federation would cancel all the agreements with Borusan. Uğur said there is no deal between Borusan and the federation and he do not understand the tone of the reaction.

“We should take this as road accident,” said Eşref Biryıldız, executive board chairman at Borusan Holding, adding that only BMW orders have been canceled so far due to the report on the discrimination claims. 
Borusan employs approximately 5,500 people with revenue of $4.2 billion and total export of $800 billion annually. 

The company invested nearly $300 million in Turkey in 2011, Uğur said. 
“Our company has never allowed any discrimination and narrow mindedness and will keep on sticking to these values,” Uğur said. 

Yeni Şafak ran a headline on the company’s apology on Jan. 2, claiming that Borusan’s stance against the headscarf wearing drivers brought “serious reaction from consumers in recent days.”