Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hyundai Assurance

From the carmaker Hyundai:

A decade ago Hyundai pioneered America’s Best Warranty™. Now we’re providing another kind of confidence. Finance or lease any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income*, we’ll let you return it. That’s the Hyundai Assurance.

At Hyundai we think it’s easier to find a job when you’ve got a car. That’s why, for a limited time, we expanded Hyundai Assurance, and we’ve added...something extra. A plus, as in Hyundai Assurance Plus. If you lose your income, we’ll make your payments for 3 months while you get back on your feet, and if that’s not enough time to work things out, you can return the car with no impact on your credit.

As a marketing program, I admire Hyundai Assurance for its creative, insurance-like value proposition. If nothing else, it has attracted media attention and gotten people talking about the Hyundai brand. It also recognizes the effect of tough times and lets Hyundai say, “We get it.” Contrast that with the current media image of American auto executives, which is something like:

[Image by Randy Bish of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

Perhaps most interesting is this observation from Rob Walker, writing in the New York Times Magazine:

As of early March, no Hyundai buyer had yet returned a vehicle bought under the Assurance umbrella. This raises the intriguing point about what sort of consumer is being reassured. Probably anybody who is really afraid of losing a job simply isn’t going to buy a car right now. But somebody whose insecurity is more abstract, who perhaps simply needs a rationale for a big-ticket purchase at a moment when the headlines are full of doom — that’s different.

The program started in January 2009, and participants must make at least two monthly payments. So the window has been short for buyers to return a car or miss payments in an allowable way. Still, as of March 23rd, the blog Kicking Tires reported:

[H]yundai spokesman Dan Bedore confirmed that so far no one has used the program. It’s still early in the plan’s lifecycle and final March figures have not come in, but the fact that no buyer has taken advantage of it says that at least the 55,133 people who bought a Hyundai this year probably still have their jobs.

While most automakers’ sales were down in early 2009, Hyundai’s were up.

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