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US Sales of South Korea's Hyundai Increasing

As car sales across North America decline, one car maker is holding its own. Sales of South Korean Hyundais have actually been increasing in the United States. The company seems to be benefiting from a marketing plan which offers customers the option of giving their car back if they lose their job.

Mike Da Silva is a rarity these days. He's a happy car salesman.

"We see a positive, we see a positive, we see an opportunity to pick up some sales and some market share," he said. "A lot of dealers are going out of business."

He's happy because he's not selling GMs, Fords, or Chryslers but Hyundais.

While sales of some U.S. car models have dropped by as much as 40 percent, sales of South Korea's Hyundai have increased.

Da Silva says, in the last year, sales in his showroom in New Jersey have jumped 60 percent.

Hyundais are relatively inexpensive. The fall in South Korea's currency, the Won, has helped drive down the price. And they offer something else in these troubled economic times: peace of mind.

The company's assurance program speaks to the underlying fear of U.S. consumers, the fear of losing their jobs.

Hyundai says if customers lose their jobs within a year of buying a car, the company will make three monthly payments.

After that, if customers still cannot find work, they can return their cars, no questions asked.

Da Silva says it's helped drive traffic into the showrooms.

"For people who are just uncertain about whether or not their company is going to downsize or whether or not they are going to get laid off, those are the people that it is really affecting, you know it gives them the peace of mind to come out and buy a car," he said.

It seems to be working. In January, Hyundai North American sales were up 14 percent. In the first three months of this year, Hyundai sales in the US were up a half of one percent while the industry average dropped 38 percent.

Many customers don't say job fears are playing a role. They point to other factors.

"They give you a great warranty, five years, 60,000 miles," owner Andy Werner points out. "No matter what happens to the car. Unfortunately, American vehicles they are not holding up as well."

Larry Young has two Hyundais and just bought one for his daughter Kelley. He says it's about saving on gasoline.

"For what we are looking for, my daughter is putting a lot of miles in the car. My car is used as a commuter, so gas mileage is a very high priority for me. So I am getting 30 to 35 miles to the gallon on my car," he said.

Although Hyundai has only four percent of the U.S. market, its assurance program is being noticed by the industry. General Motors has unveiled a plan that will cover up to nine months of payments in case of a job loss. And Ford says it will cover up to 12 months.