German car lovers have voiced fury at the country's powerful automotive association after it admitted to having faked a survey for the nation's favourite car.
The scandal around the annual ''Yellow Angel'' prize dominated newspaper front pages on Monday after the 19-million-member auto club ADAC came clean on having manipulated survey data for the coveted award.
''It's a write-off,'' judged top-selling newspaper Bild after the 111-year-old association admitted to having inflated 10-fold the number of survey participants for ''Germany's Favourite Car''.
But the ADAC insisted the overall order of the ranking, in which the VW Golf was declared the winner this year, was accurate.
Speaking for many in a country where the car is sacred, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt demanded the ADAC ''put the cards on the table'' and provide full transparency on what went wrong.
The ADAC is best known in Germany for its ''yellow angel'' roadside assistance patrols which rush to the aid of stranded drivers, as well as for its rescue helicopters.
But the Munich-based club is also a major lobby group and corporate operator which tests vehicle safety and sells commercial services from car rentals and insurance to holidays and long-distance bus services.
Greens party parliamentary leader and transport expert Anton Hofreiter said that the ADAC or Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil-Club ''cannot afford a fraud on this scale'', pointing to its ''public responsibility''.
Founded in 1903, it is Europe's biggest automotive club and its member magazine ''ADAC Motorwelt'' claims to have Europe's biggest circulation at 13 million.
The magazine's editor Michael Ramstetter, 60, who was the ADAC's head of communications, claimed responsibility for the dodgy survey and quit as a result, admitting to one newspaper: ''I messed up''.
ADAC management said it was not aware of the deception and pledged to conduct the Motorwelt readers' survey under the supervision of independent legal observers in future.