General Motors has withdrawn a Corvette commercial that shows a young boy driving wildly through city streets after safety advocates complained, the company told the Associated Press (AP).

Leaders of seven auto safety groups reportedly sent a letter to GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner protesting the television spot, saying it sent a dangerous message.

GM spokesman Joe Jacuzzi told the news agency the automaker pulled the ad for its 2005 Corvette on Tuesday in response to that letter and other consumer feedback. The ad, titled "A Boy's Dream", had been running during the Olympics broadcasts and features a dream sequence in which a clearly underage boy is shown behind the wheel of the Corvette, attempting unrealistic manoeuvres 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, AP said. "We're delighted that they did the right thing," she said.

Stone reportedly criticised 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 five have tried to imitate their parents by taking out their cars.

"Promoting illegal and risky behaviour in ads viewed by millions of families - especially young males - watching the Olympics is egregious corporate behaviour," the authors of the letter said, according to the report. "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 told the Associated Press 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 added the company received positive reviews as well as criticism of the ad.

Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, reportedly 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 organisation knows of about 25 such accidents in the last seven years that resulted in fatalities.

"Kids, especially boys, love cars," Fennell told AP. "There has to be a strong message that a car is not a toy."

Stone reportedly said the ad also was part of a broader problem of auto advertising promoting excessive speed. "A lot of the auto companies are into speed advertising," she said. "Excessive speeding and aggressive driving has become an epidemic in this country. This is one reason why."