AAP reports that Honda Australia has withdrawn a television commercial amid criticism it was grossly insensitive and traded on the image of suicide.

The TV ad, for the new Honda Accord, shows the owner of an old model admiring a new version. In response the old model locks the doors, revs the engine and speeds off the end of a cliff.

AAP said that the Australian national depression initiative, beyondblue (beyondblue) said the company had demonstrated gross insensitivity to the major Australian health issue of suicide.

“One in five people experience depression in their life and depression is a major risk factor for suicide,” said Professor Ian Hickie, beyondblue clinical adviser, in comments reported by the AAP.

“Depression and suicide are major health issues for all Australians and it is not unreasonable to expect large companies that operate in this country to respect our attempts to reduce their impact here,” he added.

But Honda Australia director Lindsay Smalley said the ad was not intended to offend and was seen as a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. “While we were satisfied the ad would create a great deal of interest and desire for the Accord, at no time was there any intention to cause anyone in the community distress,” Mr Smalley said in a statement.