"We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate UK video featuring a Hyundai," read a statement from Hyundai America public relations. "Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment."
Later in the day, Hyundai Motor Co. issued another statement, saying the ad was created by Innocean Europe without the automaker's approval. That defense, though, is hard to swallow, given Hyundai's parent company also owns Innocean.
Still, this is what they said:
"It 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," the statement said. "More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy."
The ad is particularly churlish given Hyundai's own history with suicide. Several workers in Asia have committed suicide in the past few years, including one temporary worker who was fired before the automaker would've been forced to hire him on full-time.
This is not the first time an automaker has tried to use suicide for comedic effect. GM in 2007 pulled an ad (which aired first on the Super Bowl) that showed a depressed quality-control robot looking for work, and then throwing itself off a bridge. The ad only aired once before it was modified and later shelved.
Innocean's ad for Hyundai isn't even original. An ad agency working with Audi in 2010 used the exact same set up for its ad: Cars with emissions too clean to let people commit suicide. Even though that ad wasn't sanctioned by Audi, it got a ton of bad press and put Audi in the crosshairs.
Hyundai already had to pull an ad in Holland that dealt with death. The commercial, for the Hyundai Veloster, showed a woman getting out of a car and being mowed down by a truck. The ad then rewinds, putting the woman in a Veloster, which only has a back door on the left side. So the woman was forced to get out of the car curbside, and avoids getting struck by the truck.
Ad standards and cultural touchstones differ greatly between the U.S. and Europe. But given that car accidents are the leading cause of death by injury in the world, automakers should be really careful about references to death in their ads. No one wants to be reminded of something that awful when they're thinking about buying a car. It's just not funny.
Sadly, not everyone agrees. British newspaper The Guardian picked Hyundai's suicide ad as one of the best commercials of the week last week, proving the point that there's no accounting for taste. The newspaper eventually pulled down its endorsement of the commercial.
Updated at 6:05 p.m. ET to include additional comments from Hyundai.