FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW say they will return awards from Germany's ADAC automotive club after an external audit discovered the results of the once-coveted "Yellow Angel" award were manipulated.
The irregularities were uncovered during an audit of the award procedures by Deloitte, after allegations emerged last month that ADAC's popular ADAC Motorwelt magazine had massively inflated reader votes for the award.
ADAC, whose president Peter Meyer announced his immediate resignation on Monday, had said that 34,299 motorists endorsed the VW Golf in an award to determine the most popular car in Germany.
Deloitte on Monday said it had found evidence of "willful manipulation" as well as technologically flawed processing of data.
The audit found the order of four of the first five places had been manipulated. BMW's 3-series car, for instance, should have been in second place behind the VW Golf based on votes submitted, but inexplicably did not even make it into the top five.
The Golf correctly won the award but the Audi A3 was wrongly placed as No. 2 and the Mercedes-Benz A class was wrongly named No. 3.
Deloitte found 3,271 votes had been cast in favor of the Golf; 1,703 for the BMW 3 series; 1,664 for the Audi A3; 1,320 for the Mercedes A class; and 1,184 for the Skoda Octavia, according to an ADAC statement.
ADAC at first said the total number of votes had been manipulated but not the order.