Saudi slams 'racist' Israeli Nissan ad

Official threatens boycott over ad with Saudis enraged by 'green' car.

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(photo credit: )
Gulf states may boycott the Nissan Motor Company as a result of an Israeli TV commercial that depicts Saudis angered by a fuel-efficient car, a Saudi official has said. The new campaign by Renault-Nissan caused an uproar in the Gulf when it showed a group of Saudi oil barons screaming and attacking the Renault-Nissan vehicle. The Saudis are shown leaving a hotel and encountering the new, fuel-efficient vehicle. One man pounds his fists on the car and is then held back by his companions as he shouts at it, "Hawks should peck at you day and night." At the end of the commercial, the voice-over says, "It's clear the oil companies won't like you." Click on the play button to watch the clip "It's my opinion that Nissan made a huge error by igniting these [racist] instincts," official Hani al-Wafa told MBC TV, a Saudi-run station headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. "We need to apply punishments... against these things. In order for Nissan to keep its interests in the region, it must apologize." Israeli advertising and marketing agency Inbar Merhav Shaked, which developed the Renault-Nissan campaign, declined to comment. In January, Israel partnered with Project Better Place, a company that aims to reduce petroleum dependency through the use of electric cars. Through the government initiative, Israel hopes to mass-market electric vehicles by 2011. Denmark is also investing in electric cars at a national level. Project Better Place partnered with Renault-Nissan to provide the electric vehicles featured in the new commercial. "It's a humorous campaign that was loved by both the Jewish and Arab worlds," Daniella Ribenbach, the spokeswoman for Nissan in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. She declined to make any further comments on the matter. Hadar Goldman, co-owner of the Zarmon Goldman advertising agency in Tel Aviv, said he hoped Saudis would tolerate humorous and exaggerated commercials. "If we have a sense of humor, I expect them to have one as well," he said. Nissan's electric vehicle, introduced on Wednesday, is set to go on the market in Japan and the United States in 2010, and globally by 2012. The car was designed to provide more power than hybrid models, and emits zero emissions. During test runs, the car was quiet and produced no engine noise - a trademark of electric vehicles. Details such as cruising range have yet to be determined, Nissan officials said. Having fallen behind rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in hybrids, Nissan has made the electric vehicle the pillar of its green strategy. AP contributed to this report.