Hoping to overcome mounting concerns about rising fuel prices, Hyundai has introduced a new incentive program that will let owners buy gas at $1.49 for a full year.
Dubbed the “Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock” program, it’s the second marketing campaign the Korean carmaker has launched, this year, aiming to overcome fears about the economy and, in particular, fuel prices. Last January, the automaker announced another “Assurance” program that would, under specified conditions, allow a buyer to return a Hyundai vehicle, without penalty, if they lost their job.
The program, which covers all Hyundai products except the new Genesis coupe and sedan and one version of the Accent, provides eligible owners with a card that sets the price of regular fuel at $1.49. Motorists can upgrade to mid-grade gas at $1.64, or premium at $1.79.
“We’ve extended Hyundai Assurance to cover gas prices just as peak summer demand traditionally strains budgets further,” said Hyundai Motor America Vice President Joel Ewanick, in a statement.
Hyundai has shown a creative knack with non-traditional incentive programs, in recent years. Its 10-year warranty helped reverse long-standing concerns about the automaker’s quality problems – which have largely been corrected, in recent years. Hyundai came in as the top-ranked mainstream car brand in the latest annual Initial Quality Survey, by J.D. Power and Associates.
The automaker’s job assurance program scored big in the media, as well as in the market, launching just as the U.S. was being wracked by massive, recession-fueled layoffs. Other manufacturers quickly copied, and in some cases improved upon, the Hyundai formula. General Motors, with its Total Confidence program, and Ford with the Advantage Plan, offered to cover an out-of-work customer’s payments, up to a set amount, rather than forcing someone looking for a job to turn back their car.
This time, Hyundai is echoing what several other automakers have done in the past, including Chrysler, which last year launched a gas price guarantee just as fuel costs started climbing to record levels. In a sharp run-up, during this spring, pump prices started shooting towards the $3-a-gallon mark, but in an unusual turn, costs have been dipping, as motorists reduce their travel, with the run-up to the Independence Day holiday. Still, most analysts believe fuel prices will again nudge the $4-a-gallon mark, if not higher, in the U.S.
The price guarantee could work well for a brand that has a large share of blue-collar workers in its customer base. Hyundai has, despite that demographic, done surprisingly well during the recession, so far. Its sales are down a relatively modest 8% compared to 2008 – better than all the major Japanese, European and domestic brands, and the overall 37% industry decline. Meanwhile, the South Korean maker’s market share has soared from 2.9% to 4.2%.
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