Baby outrage spurs Hyundai apology

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Baby outrage spurs Hyundai apology

Hyundai Motor and a dealer of General Motors’ Buicks apologized for postings that touted their child-safety features on Chinese social media as the nation mourns the murder of a two-month-old baby.

Hyundai, Korea’s largest automaker, said the posting was unauthorized and the company will be more vigilant in monitoring its social media accounts. The independently owned Chinese Buick dealer apologized this week for making “inappropriate” remarks.

The lapses come less than six months after Volkswagen AG’s Audi told a Chinese dealer to remove a banner advocating the murder of Japanese people - a photograph of which had spread through Chinese social media. That incident occurred at a time when anti-Japan sentiment flared across China amid a territorial dispute between Asia’s two largest economies.

“This is definitely a learning occasion for Buick and other car brands on what could possibly go wrong,” said James Roy, a senior analyst at China Market Research Group in Shanghai. “You do need to have a measure of control over anybody who is the face of your brand on the frontline.”

A suspect turned himself in to Chinese police this week, confessing to stealing a sport-utility vehicle in the northeastern city of Changchun, then strangling the infant on board to death and burying him in the snow, the official Xinhua news service reported last week. The tragedy triggered so much outrage across China that “Changchun baby abduction” was among the most searched phrases on Sina Corporation’s Twitter-like Weibo service throughout the week.

According to Xinhua, the father had parked his Toyota RAV4 - motor running with the baby in the back seat - in front of his supermarket to briefly turn on the heat. When he came back out, the vehicle was missing and the father reported the incident to local police March 4, according to Xinhua.

A posting on Hyundai’s Weibo account on March 6 made references to a missing child and vehicle as it promoted the safety features of the new imported Santa Fe SUV, causing a backlash from dozens of microbloggers on Weibo criticizing Hyundai. The posting was made by a non-Hyundai employee expressing a personal opinion and the company deleted it as soon as it was detected, Hyundai said.

“We pledge to be more vigilant in managing our social networking service accounts, while we send our deepest condolences to the victim’s family,” Hyundai said in an e-mail.

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