Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shades of Joe Walsh

Seems to me
You don't wanna talk about it
Seems to me
You just turn your pretty head and walk away
In the current economic climate, how far will car companies go to get our business?

Naturally, all of them are cutting prices to the bone. There's the familiar array of free scheduled-maintenance plans, zero-interest deals and long warranties, but those perks are soooo 1990s. Consider what Hyundai Motor America announced yesterday:
"Beginning today, Hyundai is providing a complimentary vehicle-return program for the first year on every new Hyundai that is financed or leased for owners who experience an involuntary loss of income within 12 months of the purchase date."
You read that right -- buy a car, lose your income, bring the car back, walk away from your loan or lease.

The program, Hyundai Assurance, is being advertised heavily during this weekend's NFL playoffs. There are, of course, a few strings -- buyers must have suffered "a covered life-changing event" and the maximum depreciation benefit is $7,500 (buyer pays any remaining balance).

Look, I'm no fan of this company's products. I recognize marketing gimmickry when I see it, and yes, some form of WALKAWAY insurance has been an option at select dealers for over 30 years. Still, who would've thought we'd ever see anything like this offered by an automaker, at the corporate level, on every sale?

Not me -- these are strange days. Question is, are they so strange that struggling U.S. car companies will match the Koreans' ante?

I'm not holding my breath.