Imagine a person trying to commit suicide in the garage with the car running. But because the car has such a small amount of emissions, death by carbon monoxide asphyxiation is impossible.
This was the theme of a recently released Hyundai online advertisement that aired on YouTube and was quickly pulled due to widespread backlash.
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In the ad, a man sits inside a new Hyundai ix35 with windows taped shut and a hose feeding fumes from the exhaust pipe into the car, Reuters reported.
At the end of the ad, the man walks away from the car.
The South Korean company scrambled to limit the damage from the advertisement, issuing an immediate apology.
"[This advertisement] runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused," a statement from Hyundai’s global headquarters said. "More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy."
Holly Brockwell, who identified herself as a digital copywriter in London, wrote on her blog that she felt "sick" after watching the advertisement, saying her father had committed suicide when she was a child.
"I understand better than most people the need to do... something talkable, even something outrageous to get those all-important viewing figures. What I don't understand is why a group of strangers have just brought me to tears in order to sell me a car," she said in an open letter to Hyundai and Innocean.
"My dad never drove a Hyundai. Thanks to you, neither will I."
The ad was produced by the European unit of Innocean Worldwide Corp, an in-house advertising firm that is 40 percent owned by Chung Sung-yi, a daughter of Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo.
The ad debacle is the latest to hit the carmaker, the world's fifth largest by sales when combined with its Kia Motors affiliate, after it exaggerated fuel performance figures in the United States, and announced a large-scale vehicle recall this month.
Hyundai, led by chairman Chung Mong-koo has transformed itself from butt of jokes to a company which has aspirations to match Germany's Volkswagen AG as it seeks to shed its value-for-money image and move upmarket.
Hyundai's crossover ix35 car which is sold as the Tucson in the United States will go on sale in Europe by 2015 as the company seeks to leap-frog its competition in the eco-friendly car segment.
Hyundai is not the only carmaker to have run into trouble over its advertisements.
Ford Motor Co last month was criticized for sexist advertisements that appeared in in India, leading to an apology from Ford India and dismissal of employees at an Indian unit of advertising group WPP.
In at least one of the ads
, Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, infamous for his sex parties, allegedly with underage girls, drives with three women bound in his trunk.
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