Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Dodge brand deleted social-media posts promoting drag races that took place the day the driver of one of its vehicles killed a protester and injured at least 19 others in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Until Tuesday afternoon, the last four posts on Dodge's Twitter account used the hashtag #RoadkillNights, referring to a series of races held Saturday near Detroit that the brand sponsored. That same day, an Ohio man drove a Dodge Challenger into a group of counter protesters at a white nationalist and supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Some of Dodge's more than 740,000 followers and others on Twitter criticized the brand for keeping the posts up after the violence in Charlottesville. Dodge's delayed response contrasts with TIKI Brand Products and the Detroit Red Wings, which issued statements Saturday distancing themselves from white nationalists who carried tiki torches and signs that altered the hockey team's logo with swastikas during the rally.
"It seems to me completely tone deaf that they wouldn't acknowledge that it was one of their vehicles that was very clearly identified in the weekend's events," Scott Monty, co-managing partner at Brain+Trust Partners, which advises companies on social media use, said before Dodge removed the posts. "Having a hashtag that is so similar or at least related to what happened, you would think they would just eradicate any existence of that."
Dodge is the lead sponsor of Roadkill, a website, magazine and television show owned by The Enthusiast Network. The brand has sponsored the annual drag races on Michigan's Woodward Avenue for the last three years.
"It's unfortunate that such a pure, safe, family friendly automotive event was linked to such a senseless, horrific act," Fiat Chrysler said in an emailed statement. The company had already put an early end to plans for a more extensive social-media campaign promoting the races, a spokesman said.
Roadkill on Monday posted a statement to its Facebook page condemning "the violence committed and racism displayed" in Charlottesville and said it was taking legal action to stop hate groups from using its brand.
"We've seen over the last 24 hours three CEOs quit the American manufacturing council that the president put together," said Monty, who led Ford Motor Co.'s social-media strategy from 2008 to 2014. "That all says something. And Dodge's action or inaction says something as well."