There has been a bizarre turn of events for the troubled Hyundai notebook reseller channel which was hit by two serious incidents of theft last month.
Hyundai International today released a statement alleging that some of the stolen Hyundai-badged notebooks were "grey market" products that had "been used in several questionable marketing campaigns".
Edward Bong, Operations Manager for Hyundai International today released a statement warning that parallel import stocks of notebooks bearing the company's brand were currently "causing confusion in the market".
Bong said that while the notebooks bore Hyundai markings they were unlicensed, not covered under the company's local warranty arrangements with United Electrical Engineering Pty Ltd in Australia and New Zealand, and therefore "muddied" the Hyundai brand name.
"Furthermore," said the company in its advisory "there has been a spate of factory break-ins and truck hi-jackings of some of these grey marketed products and people need to be aware that they should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if they are approached to purchase a Hyundai Notebook Computer".
Serial numbers for the stolen items included in Hyundai's statement point to an incident in Fairfield last month in which an estimated AU$1 million worth of notebooks were stolen when it is alleged armed assailants forced the driver of a truck leaving a Bankstown warehouse on route to a Wetherill Park address to surrender the vehicle.
Police appealed to the public for assistance at the time; New South Wales Detective Sergeant Gordon Bullock said the 680 notebooks stolen in the hi-jacking were believed to be Hyundai ImageQuest P571s.
"The vast majority of the computers have a serial number commencing with NCP5713E or NKP5713E followed by an additional five digits," added Bullock.
However, Hyundai International today said that unlike the serial numbers on the stolen products, authentic Hyundai products carry a 6-digit number preceded by the letters HY-, followed by a 1800- phone number.
The company's announcement instantly raises the question of who is responsible for manufacturing the million dollar haul.
Previous reports on the thefts in trade press link the notebooks to three companies in the Hyundai reseller channel, including PC-Club -- system assembler for Hyundai's authorised distributor, Hyundai MultiCAV.
PC-Club, which also suffered a burglary at its Rhodes premises shortly after the hi-jacking incident, was reported to be working with Bankstown-based Global Trading Industries -- purported to be the victim of the hi-jack incident -- on an ambitious marketing campaign in which the notebooks would be bundled with home entertainment systems.
PC-Club managing director David Lee is reported to have told IT channel publication, Australian Reseller News, that the company was importing components on behalf of PC maker Hyundai Digital, in order to build a large quantity of Hyundai notebooks to be resold by GTI.
Lee today refused to speak to ZDNet Australia regarding Hyundai International's announcement and referred all our enquiries to the Hyundai Digital CEO, Aron Jackson.
Jackson initially also refused to comment on the matter to ZDNet Australia without first consulting the company's Public Relations representatives.
Later, in e-mail correspondence with ZDNet Australia, Jackson said that none of Hyundai Digital's computers had been stolen and denied that the company had any relationship with GTI.
When asked why Lee had referred enquiries regarding the stolen laptops to Hyundai Digital, Jackson said, "I don't know. As I said we have had no thefts of any of our products we have not had any PCs built on our behalf for GTI, we don't trade with GTI and we have no relationship with them. For any theft issues regarding GTI I would suggest you speak to the people involved GTI and the Police."
Jackson diverted his mobile number to Hyundai Digital's customer service line shortly after speaking to ZDNet Australia
Global Trading Industries was late today unreachable via its sales number.
ZDNet Australia today approached NSW Police for further details concerning the hi-jacking but Police media officers unable to respond in time for publication.