You can’t make stuff like this up …
Hyundai’s Australian unit learned the hard way that you don’t joke around in a room full of journalists. What started as a “light-hearted” publicity stunt now has people laughing at the car maker.
At a media lunch in Tasmania unveiling Hyundai’s new Sonata sedan, the car maker’s Australian chief, Bong Gou Lee, offered journalists about to file reports on the Sonata a chance to buy the model at half price. Lee reportedly handed around drinks called depth-charges (a mix of beer and whiskey), then told the 30 journalists in attendance: “Half price for journalists, tonight only.”
As the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday: “Some in the room considered it a crude inducement, though none would say so on the record. What has been confirmed by the Herald, however, is that several journalists gave credit card numbers and specified models and colors on a deal that would have saved more than $17,000 and delivered a new car at below cost.”
Soon after the Herald – which was not represented at the lunch — started making inquiries, Lee began backpedaling, calling “buyers” to tell them that it was a misunderstanding.
Hyundai’s spokesman, Richard Power, told the Herald that Lee meant to offer “a chance to take a conventional six-month long-term evaluation.” He said the original offer was “made in a light-hearted circumstance — it wasn’t really a serious commitment over time.”
Unfortunately, the journalists didn’t see it that way. One told the Herald that Lee walked from table to table encouraging journalists to accept his verbal offer:
“There’s no way it was a joke. There’s no way people joke about things like that and take names and colors,” the attendee said. “I bought one. Plenty of people did. I think they would have to honor the deal.”
In truth, journalists should know better than to accept such enormous gifts from those that they cover. It calls into question a journalist’s objectivity and credibility. No doubt the reason the reporters who accepted the offer are staying anonymous is to avoid getting at best scolded and at worst fired by their various employers.
Still, one can only wonder whether the journalists will find the incident “light-hearted” when they write their reviews of the car.
For more from David R. Mark, check out Journalists Against Bush’s B.S. (JABBS)