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Mexican Automaker Has Last Laugh After Racial, Cultural Slap

Mastretta MXT

 (Mastretta)

The maxim that every cloud has a silver lining was never truer than for Mexico's Mastretta car company, which gained global attention after being ridiculed on a British television show, AFP reported Friday.

Now Mastretta hopes to parlay its new-found fame into greater car sales, even though the popular BBC program "Top Gear" dismissed the cars produced by the Mexican car maker as "lazy," "feckless" and "flatulent" -- qualities it said paralleled the national character.

The company's marquis vehicle -- the sleek sports car Mastretta MXT -- was also derided as little more than a giant "tortilla" on wheels.

The resulting imbroglio became a full-scale diplomatic incident, with Mexico angrily demanding a retraction from the broadcaster.

The show is one of the BBC's most popular, with a global audience of some 350 million viewers -- to the initial chagrin of the company's general manager Carlos Mastretta.

But the controversy has had the unexpected upside of bringing the formerly obscure auto maker to international prominence.

Suddenly internet traffic on the company's website shot up, and there was even an increase in visits to the factory.

Better still, orders for the MXT are beginning to pour in.

"I have various agreements with distributors in Europe and we're in initial talks with countries in Latin America like Brazil and Chile," said Mastretta.

He added his company also was beginning to receive inquiries from the United States.

For more than two decades, Mastretta has been a leading designer of public transportation vehicles and Mexicans are familiar with the firm.

"I've known of the Mastretta company for years, but I didn't know about this car," said Jose Melgarejo, 32, a longtime fan of all things automotive.

"I first heard about it through the controversy over the 'Top Gear' program, and so I came to have a look at the car," he said.

The BBC said hundreds of Mexicans had contacted its Spanish-language website BBC Mundo to complain about the remarks on "Top Gear," which Mexico's ambassador to London decried as "outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults."

The broadcaster issued an apology, but at the same time defended the jokes about the country as being part of British humor.

Mastretta is convinced that once production gets underway, the car will be a hot seller -- including in the country whose mocking remarks caused so much dismay.

"In a month-and-a-half it will be in Great Britain," said Mastretta.

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