The little engine that could

The little engine that could

A little ingenuity goes a long way for HyundaI

By Jennifer Hadley 03/05/2009

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When my best friend Sarah got her first car, the world officially became our oyster. The 1989 white hatchback Hyundai Excel was our ticket to ride anywhere our 16-year-old hearts desired. Of course, long journeys (such as the 30-mile trip to Columbus, Ohio, from our home in the ‘burbs) weren’t particularly comfortable. The Excel began shaking like a leaf as soon as we hit 55 mph. Still, we coaxed the little hatchback along with reassurance that it was a good car, cooing the mantra “I think I can, I think I can” as we cruised all over central Ohio. And the little car could and did take us wherever we wanted to go for two full years.

The next time I was in a Hyundai was during my days of employ with Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Albany, NY. By 2001, Hyundai had given birth to a whole new generation of vehicles, having bred out the shaking and creatively replacing it with America’s Best Warranty™, a 10-year, 100,000-mile power-train protection plan. The South Korean automakers had clearly thought they could — and did — make better, more attractive vehicles, complete with creative marketing tactics that appealed to American car buyers. 

Today, in the wake of jaw-dropping auto sale declines, (GM reported a decrease of 49 percent in January, while Chrysler admitted to a whopping 55 percent drop), Hyundai managed to increase sales an impressive 14 percent during the same month. I can’t attribute this bump in sales to any single cause specifically, but the ingenuity and creativity behind the Hyundai assurance program, ( has got to have something to do with it.

In response to our less than stellar economy, Hyundai assurance lets buyers return their vehicle if they lose their jobs, (or are affected by other life-altering circumstances as defined by Hyundai). Even better for struggling consumers: Should a Hyundai owner be forced for such reasons to return their vehicle, the return of the car will not negatively affect the buyer’s credit score. Indeed, in lieu of traditional buyer incentives employed by American auto makers — which have clearly done nothing to increase sales — Hyundai simply decided to use a little initiative and present a program appropriate for our times. 

Yet Hyundai’s creativity hasn’t stopped there. Now they’ve revealed Hyundai assurance plus. This program (which only runs through the end of April) is a supplement to the original assurance program, offering those who recently purchased a Hyundai — only to find themselves unexpectedly out of a job — payment relief for 90 days. Yes, Hyundai will make up to three months payments on the vehicle while the owner secures new employment, or decides to return the vehicle. 

Although I’ve never owned or really considered owning a Hyundai, I have to say that these relevant and timely acts of ingenuity are giving me butterflies. While the Big Three automakers are spending their time groveling for money, and all their energy cutting jobs and giving questionable assurances that they’re going to survive this downturn, Hyundai has spent that time developing practical incentives for buyers. And they’re also designing vehicles that appeal to car aficionados — the Hyundai Genesis was recently named North American Car of the Year at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

My growing crush on Hyundai is reinforced by the fact that Hyundai Motor America is based in Fountain Valley.  Lord knows Southern California needs the jobs. Lastly, despite the fact that Hyundai is a South Korean company, they are building two of their models, the Sonata and the Santa Fe, right here in the USA. Gush. 

Indeed, Hyundai has certainly come a long way from the shaky little hatchback of my adolescence. With all of their vehicles designated low emission, and six certified as ultra-low emission, the evolution of Hyundai has me cheering them on as the little engine that could rises up, a beacon of ingenuity and innovation in the otherwise abysmal auto market. Keep it up Hyundai, I think you can, I think you can ...

Contact Jennifer Hadley at


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