When Hyundai rolled out its Hyundai Assurance plan on January 3 of this year, it was a little surprising that more automakers didn't follow suit.
And now it's clear that the program, which recognized the economic plight of consumers by promising to set them free of financial obligations if they became jobless, did a lot for the company and its image.
According to Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford, less than ten people nationwide have returned new vehicles so far under the agreement.
"The good news is that among our buyers, only a few have lost their jobs," said Hosford. "What we knew is that there are a lot of people concerned who will likely not have that problem, yet it keeps them out of the market."
Yet for a lot of shoppers, the ease of mind has been enough to get them to sign on the dotted line. The company estimates that the Assurance plan was one of the most significant purchase factors in about ten percent of sales since the plan was first enacted in January.
It almost certainly had a role in the brand's continued market upswing. Hyundai's market share for the first six months of 2009 has risen to 4.2 percent, up from 3.1 percent for the same period last year.
The Assurance program covers up to $7,500 in negative equity and allows you to simply return the vehicle, credit intact, if you become unemployed, disabled, or bankrupt, or are transferred overseas.
Hyundai also recently rolled out a promotional plan, called Assurance Gas Lock, to include a year's worth of $1.49-per-gallon gas on most of its models and ease another type of economic worry. Several other automakers, including Suzuki and Chrysler, have also included gasoline promotions.
2010 Hyundai Genesis CoupeEnlarge Photo
The company's 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan and 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe—along with a new 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon—also likely played a role in market-share conquest, at a time when automakers are battling it out for the smallest sales declines. The brand outsold Dodge for the first time last month, taking its place as the number-six best-selling brand in the U.S.
Hosford also confirmed that Hyundai Motor America has started issuing cash advances of $4,000 for cars sold under the Cash for Clunkers bill, although just a few dealerships so far have become part of the unusual arrangement. The bill is valid for sales beginning July 1, though government rules won't officially go into place until July 24.