South Korea’s Hyundai Motor faced calls on Monday for a boycott of its cars in India after a tweet from the account of its Pakistan partner expressed solidarity for separatists in Kashmir.
The controversy erupted on Sunday, a day after posts on behalf of Hyundai’s partner Nishat Group appeared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Hundreds of social media users in India backed calls for a boycott, saying Hyundai must apologise for the social media posts.
Dozens of Indians posted their intention to cancel orders for Hyundai cars in order to punish the company while urging support for homegrown brands like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.
Responding to the controversy, Hyundai’s India unit said that it has a “zero tolerance policy towards insensitive communication and we strongly condemn any such view”.
“The unsolicited social media post linking Hyundai Motor India is offending our unparalleled commitment and service to this great country,” @HyundaiIndia said, adding that it stands firmly behind its “strong ethos of respecting nationalism”.
— Hyundai India (@HyundaiIndia) February 6, 2022
Reuters requested comment from Hyundai’s headquarters in Seoul and from Nishat Group, Pakistan’s largest business conglomerate, but did not receive any immediate response.
Hyundai is India’s second-largest car seller after Maruti Suzuki selling close to half a million vehicles in the country last fiscal year and exporting over a million units, making it India’s largest car exporter.
Ashwani Mahajan, an official at the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) group, said Hyundai should clarify its position on Kashmir.
“While not criticising @HyundaiPakistan Indian arm of @Hyundai_Global is not even saying that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Speaks tons about their commitment to India. Doesn’t this call for #BoycottHyundai?”, he said.
Twitter user Ashutosh Soni said he has cancelled his booking for Hyundai’s Verna sedan which was due to be delivered this month and purchased a car from rival Honda Motor.
“#BoycottHyundai, that’s it!”, Mr Soni tweeted from his handle @CA_AshutoshSoni on Sunday, along with a photograph of himself taking delivery of a new Honda car.
“Let’s make them bankrupt. India is one of the biggest market for cars,” filmmaker and social activist, Ashoke Pandit said on Twitter with a screenshot of a fall in Hyundai’s share price on Monday.
While Hyundai’s share fell 1.25% on Monday, weakening more than Seoul’s benchmark index, the main factors behind the drop were concerns over record numbers of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, and ongoing worries that a global chip shortage could hit production and sales.
Twitter users in the country have made similar calls in the past, seeking to boycott Chinese goods after a border clash between the two Asian giants which disrupted automobile supply chains and other industries. Amazon.com Inc has also faced social media backlash in India after its overseas website was found selling goods with faces of Hindu gods and other sacred symbols.