Ford motor company has apologised for an advert that portrayed Italy's former PM Silvio Berlusconi at the wheel of a car with three bound and gagged woman in the boot.

The advert, created by JWT (part of the WPP group) for the Figo in India, ran under the tagline: "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot." The reference to Berlusconi's sexual affairs and bunga-bunga parties is clear as is the resemblance of one girl to Ruby the Heart-stealer.

A creative team at JWT India published the advert on website Ads of the World without approval.

Ford told Business Insider that it deeply regretted the incident. "It should have never happened," a spokesman said. The advert has been taken down.

"Together with our partners, we are reviewing approval and oversight processes to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again."

WPP Group said that the posters were "distasteful and contrary to the standard of professionalism and decency within WPP group".

"These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet," the company said.

"This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken within the agency where they work to deal with the situation."

The advert caused embarrassment at a time when Italy is already embroiled in a diplomatic row with India for over two Italian marines who have been accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala.