Volkswagen of America said Tuesday it's going ahead with a Super Bowl ad that some critics are calling racist because it depicts a cheerful white office worker speaking in a Jamaican accent.
Titled "Get In, Get Happy," the 60-second spot has been seen more than 614,000 times since it went up on the German automaker's YouTube account ahead of Sunday's American football championship.
"No worries, mon, every-ding will be all right," Dave, the commercial's Beetle-driving lead character from Minnesota, tells his grumpy workmates. "Turn da frown dee other way around."
"I was shocked... This is so racist," said Barbara Lippert of Mediapost.com on NBC's "Today" show, while Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist who is black, told CNN the ad was "blackface with voices."
Mark Gillies, manager of product and technology communication at Volkswagen of America, told AFP the ad -- with a soundtrack from reggae giant Jimmy Cliff -- had been tested before "a diverse audience" that included Jamaicans.
"This is the ad you will see" on Sunday, he told AFP. "The plan is to air the ad with the Super Bowl. That hasn't changed since it aired (on YouTube) yesterday."
He added: "The message of the ad, which some people seem to have lost, is that you drive something like a Beetle, and it brightens your day up."
YouTube viewers seemed to agree. By late afternoon Tuesday, more than 3,000 had given the ad a thumbs-up -- versus a tad over 200 who disliked it.
Even reggae star Cliff -- who also stars in another Volkswagen ad released in tandem with "Get In, Get Happy," -- was delighted. "Let's keep spreading good vibes in 2013!" he said on his blog. "Blessed Love to Everyone! Lots more to come!"