General Motors Corp. has withdrawn a Corvette commercial that shows a young boy driving wildly through city streets after safety advocates complained, the company said Wednesday.
Leaders of seven auto safety groups sent a letter Tuesday to GM chairman and chief executive G. Richard Wagoner Jr. protesting the television spot, saying it sent a dangerous message.
GM spokesman Joe Jacuzzi said the automaker pulled the ad for its 2005 Corvette on Tuesday in response to that letter and other consumer feedback. The ad had been running during the Olympics broadcasts.
The ad, titled "A Boy's Dream," features a dream sequence in which a clearly underage boy is shown behind the wheel of the Corvette, attempting unrealistic maneuvers at high speeds. At one point, he passes a girl about the same age driving another car.
Judith Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and one of the signatories of the letter to Wagoner, welcomed GM's decision to pull the ad.
"We're delighted that they did the right thing," she said.
Stone criticized both the promotion of excessive speed in the ad and the depiction of young children driving. She pointed to real-life cases in which children as young as 5 have tried to imitate their parents by taking out their cars.
"Promoting illegal and risky behavior in ads viewed by millions of families -- especially young males -- watching the Olympics is egregious corporate behavior," the authors of the letter said. "It is doubtful that General Motors would condone the beer industry showing a 'dream sequence' of 10-year-old children having an after-school 'kegger.' "
GM's Jacuzzi said the ad never was intended to depict a real-life situation.
"The intention right off the bat was to capture a boy's aspiration of driving a Corvette in a very exaggerated way," he said. He said the company received positive reviews as well as criticism of the ad.
Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, said there are no official statistics about accidents in which underage children are at the wheel. But Fennell, who also signed the letter, said her organization knows of about 25 such accidents in the past seven years that resulted in fatalities.
Fennell said the Corvette ad made a big impression on her 9-year-old son, who described it in detail to her after seeing it just once.
"Kids, especially boys, love cars," Fennell said. "There has to be a strong message that a car is not a toy."