German car giant Audi has apologised for an advert which many members of the public deemed inappropriate and "just wrong".
Over the weekend, the luxury brand published a new ad for its RS4 vehicle which featured a young girl leaning against the car while eating a banana.
It was accompanied by the caption: "Lets your heart beat faster - in every aspect. #AudiRS4."
But it immediately sparked accusations of being "provocative" due to the use of a child holding a "phallic symbol".
"I could see how this ad could be misinterpreted as being 'provocative' and therefore should never have been aired in the first place," one Twitter user posted.
"With a top speed of 174m/h (280km/h) this car should be illegal based on how many kids it will likely kill through both speed and contributory pollution. Instead you want to sell this car USING A CHILD? Probably Audi's lowest moment," another wrote.
"So @Audi think it is appropriate to have a young child in their advert holding a famously phallic symbol of a banana while saying, 'Let your heart beat faster, in every aspect.'
This is just wrong on every level," tweeted another.
The backlash was so intense Audi issued a public apology in a lengthy series of Twitter posts on Monday.
"We hear you and let's get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS4 is a family car with more than 30 driver assistance systems including an emergency brake system. That's why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign," the company began.
"We hoped we could convey these messages, showing that even for the weakest traffic participants it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone's feelings.
"We sincerely apologise for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future. We will also immediately examine internally, how this campaign has been created and if control mechanisms failed in this case."
It comes just months after parent company Volkswagen was caught up in another social media storm following a "racist" Instagram ad.
The video showed a man with dark skin examining a new Golf car before giant white hands moved him out of the way, flicking him into a cafe called Petit Colon, or "the little colonist".
Animated letters spelling out "The New Golf" in German appear to have briefly spelt out a racial slur.
Der Spiegel said: "The letters are faded in so that the word N, E, G, E and R can be seen for a moment." It is an offensive German term not used in polite company.
Volkswagen has removed the video from its feed and company reps apologised for the "racist" clip.