BERLIN,Germany - Europe's largest and most influential car club, ADAC, cheated on its annual car awards which was won by VW's Golf 7.ADAC communications director Michael Ramstetter has resigned after conceding he manipulated the results of the club's coveted "Yellow Angel" award for Germany's favourite car, won a week earlier by the Golf.ADAC managing director Karl Obermair said: "We've got our work cut out to repair our tarnished reputation, Ramstetter's actions were an inexcusable mistake. We're very sorry. This strikes at the very core of our existence. Our goal is to restore our credibility." He had humiliated himself for scolding news media for reporting doubts about ADAC's vote-counting. 'FILLIP TO SALES'ADAC has more than 18-million members. Its Yellow Angel award can give a fillip to sales in a competitive domestic market.ADAC conceded that Ramstetter, editor of ADAC's popular ADAC Motorwelt magazine that calls itself Europe's biggest bi-monthly with 18-million readers, hugely inflated the results of votes, saying 34 299 people had voted for the Golf as Germany's favourite car. The true number was 3409.ADAC, normally a bastion of integrity whose car tests are followed closely in a country with a deep affinity for its automobiles, said the order of the results was not tampered with - only the total number of votes - but that did little to calm the storm of protest in Germany over cheating at what is usually ranked as one of the country's most respected institutions. Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said: "It's up to ADAC to come clean with everything." The club, he added, should start "showing a little more modesty".CONSIDERABLE INFLUENCEA car expert at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, gave the harshest criticism of ADAC. He said its reports and rankings needed to be re-examined. "The car breakdown statistics and tunnel safety reports need to be re-examined; if there are lies told about the Yellow Angel other areas can't be ruled out." ADAC has long wielded considerable influence in Germany. It coined the slogan "Freie Fahrt fuer freie Buerger" (Free travel for free citizens) that long served as a rallying cry against speed limits on motorways.Peter-Heinz Thul, head of VW's product communication, said: "The ball's in ADAC's court." VW expected ADAC to thoroughly investigate the scandal "then we'll decide what to do with the award".A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz said his company demanded speedy clarification from ADAC. "We expect ADAC will, in its own interest, comprehensively investigate this matter and then inform the general public."A spokesperson for Ford Germany said: "The prize has a big reputation. One should be able to assume that finding a winner is done in a manner which is above board."Helmut Becker a Munich economist who long worked for BMW, said the ADAC scandal might trigger a broader shake-out. "We need to take a more critical look at all the awards in the car sector. I see a danger that vehicle comparison tests have also been manipulated." Franz-Rudolf Esch, a professor of brand management and automotive marketing at the European Business School, said automakers took the awards seriously as they helped to sell cars. "Generally speaking, prizes are important - a nice decoration and an external validation."This has a particular impact on weak brands. Clients feel they're doing the right thing by buying a car that has been awarded a prize."WHEELS24 READERS’ CAR OF THE YEARWheels24 asked our readers which car they'd like to see claim the 2014 South African Car of the Year title and, at the time of publishing, our homepage voting booth has garnered 12 890 votes. Volvo's V40 has a commanding lead with 3995, followed by Lexus' IS 350 (2140) and VW's Golf 7 (1697) in second and third place respectively.