auto

Hyundai offers no-penalty returns

It's a known fact that every car manufacturer on the market has seen sales plummet, right?

Wrong.

National retail sales of new cars and trucks slid 37.1 percent compared to January 2008. Some were bigger losers, such as Chrysler with January sales down nearly 55 percent from a year ago, while others like Honda -- down 28 percent -- didn't drop quite as much.

But there were exceptions -- most notably Hyundai, which sold 24,512 vehicles nationwide in January as opposed to 21,452 in January 2008 -- a 14 percent increase. Other gainers were Kia, Smart and Subaru.

What's Hyundai's secret to success? There are a number of factors at work but there's no doubt the Hyundai Assurance Program, launched Jan. 3, is playing a major role.

The program apparently has great appeal for would-be buyers in these volatile economic times. Basically Hyundai is saying, "If you've lost your job and can't pay for your car, just bring it back -- no harm, no foul."

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You not only can return the car, but there's no damage to your credit rating and, in fact, it's reported as an early payoff!

The assurance plan came about after Hyundai decided one of the key reasons people were hesitant to buy a new car was the fear of losing their job. But despite rising unemployment, the thinking at Hyundai was that the vast majority of people who were afraid of losing their jobs, in the end, wouldn't. "We feel 90 percent of people will keep their jobs," says Chris Hosford, spokesman for Hyundai. "But the fear is real. We asked, 'What can we do to take away the fear?'"

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