Chinese state television channel China Central Television (CCTV)'s annual '3.15' investigative special claimed the local units of Volkswagen, Nissan Motor and Daimler had oversold repairs and spare parts.

The programme, described by Reuters as similar to the US CBS network's '60 Minutes', also criticised Tata Motors' Jaguar Land Rover for gearbox problems in some cars.

Reuters said media criticism in the world's top vehiicle market can damage reputations and slow sales. iPhone maker Apple made a rare apology in 2013 after criticism on the show of its aftersales service.

Volkswagen, a target two years ago, was further criticised in an article before the show for its handling of a recall of the locally made Sagitar (Jetta), the news agency noted.

"We have paid close attention to CCTV reporting... and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers," Volkswagen China spokeswoman Larissa Braun told Reuters.

Nissan's China joint venture said it would set up a team to investigate the allegations and strengthen the regulation of its service teams, according to a statement on its official microblog cited in the agency report. Daimler declined immediate comment.

Land Rover apologised to its customers on its official microblog and said it was working to resolve the issue.

Reuters said multinational firms and their public relations teams often scramble to respond to the allegations after seeing their company 'named and shamed' for the first time on the night itself.

A fast food chain also came under fire on the programme which has previously criticised such multinational household names as camera maker Nikon, fast food outlet McDonald's, supermarket chain Carrefour and consumer products maker Procter & Gamble.

But CCTV itself has come under fire in China over the last couple of years with some consumers rushing to defend its targets or simply changing channel, Reuters said.

Marketing experts said that without damage control the impact of such shows in China could damage companies severely.

"The 3.15 show still packs a punch to the firms targeted, and a poor or flippant response from a targeted company can evoke consumer outrage," James Feldkamp, chief executive officer of consumer watchdog MingJian, told Reuters.

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