Hyundai Dropping Job-Loss Protection Program
By Chris Haak
In January 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession (arguably the Great Depression of the auto industry), Hyundai’s then-marketing chief Joel Ewanick rolled out what the company called the Hyundai Assurance Program. Under the program, buyers of new Hyundais who lost their jobs within a year of buying or leasing their new Hyundai could return the car to the dealer, no questions asked. The program covered up to $7,500 of negative equity to help distressed buyers/lessors get out from under difficult situations.
The program is now ending this week. Actually, on March 31. Hyundai cited the improving economy as the reason to drop the program, and they’re right. But I don’t think Hyundai really needs – or needed – the buyer-protection program to build its sales momentum over the past two years.
Despite the hype – it led Ewanick to be lauded as “Marketer of the Year” by Advertising Age, which led to his employment by Nissan, which led to his employment as GM’s head marketer – the program showed more bark than bite. Widely credited with insulating Hyundai from a recession-caused sales collapse, it was mostly the improving products and generally good marketing (plus the expenditure of lots of ad money) that got Hyundai to where it is. Hyundais are now competitive or leading in nearly every class in which they compete, they look good (but different from other makers’ cars), and they have excellent fuel efficiency.
Giving the buyer protection program credit for the company’s recent sales successes seems a bit simplistic. According to TTAC, fewer than 350 Hyundai buyers – out of more than a million cars sold – have returned their cars under the Hyundai Assurance Program.
Now, with Joel Ewanick calling the shots at GM, it’s up to him to come up with something to help his new company get attention – and marketshare – in an increasingly more-competitive environment.