Hyundai Revives Payment Assistance Amid Federal Shutdown

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Lights remained out in public buildings and stocks plummeted Wednesday morning as the first federal-government shutdown in nearly two decades continued into its second day. With no apparent signs of resolution in Congress to put 800,000 government employees back to work, one automaker announced a plan to help ease the financial woes of those workers whose incomes would be diminished by the shutdown.

Hyundai has expanded its Assurance program to include loan-payment deferral for federal workers furloughed during the shutdown. The automaker will extend all auto-loan and lease payments for the shutdown’s duration for current Hyundai owners who are impacted by it. Moreover, sidelined federal workers who wish to buy a car this month will be offered a 90-day payment deferral.

“Like the original Hyundai Assurance job loss protection program, the federal employee payment deferral plan is aimed at helping workers at a time when they most need it,” the automaker stated in a news release. “The program is available to any customer who has financed his or her purchase or lease through Hyundai Finance America.”

In the early weeks of the 2009 recession, Hyundai launched the Assurance program, guaranteeing that if buyers of its cars encountered an “unexpected loss of income” — including job loss, bankruptcy, physical disability, loss of license due to medical impairment, or death — during their first year of ownership, they could return that car with little or no penalty; the program protected buyers against vehicle depreciation up to $7,500.

The following month, Hyundai expanded the program with Assurance Plus, in which the automaker agreed to make three months’ finance or lease payments on owners’ cars while they looked for work; after that three months, if they were unsuccessful in finding a job, they were able to turn in the car and be forgiven the balance owed minus the car’s trade-in value. The automaker reported at the time that the Assurance program contributed to a 14% sales spike compared with the same period a year earlier.

The program went dormant in spring 2011 as the economy continued to improve, with only 350 customers asking Hyundai to take back their vehicles due to job loss. Heralded as boosting the automaker’s image — and sales — during a challenging economic time, imitators such as Ford’s Advantage Plan and GM’s Total Confidence program also came and went.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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