Now the threat of getting laid off doesn’t have to stop you from buying a new car. As long as it’s a Hyundai you buy. If you lose your job within a year, you can give the car back.

Now the threat of getting laid off doesn’t have to stop you from buying a new car.

As long as it’s a Hyundai you buy. If you lose your job within a year, you can give the car back.

That’s the basis of a new program from Hyundai Motor America launched earlier this month.

The Hyundai assurance program is just one of the many incentives automakers are offering to lure buyers back into the showrooms.

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik called the new program a way to reassure shoppers “in this uncertain economy... that Hyundai still represents the best value in the auto industry.”

At no extra charge, the program pays the difference between the car’s trade-in value at the time an owner files a claim and any remaining balance on the loan, up to $7,500.

“This is a Hyundai exclusive,” said Mike Miller, a Peoria Hyundai dealer who also sells models from Kia and Mitsubishi. “We’ve already had several takers. The reaction has been very positive. Some people come in specifically about the program while others find out about it while they’re here,” he said.

Hyundai hatched the plan last year after perceiving that uncertainty was discouraging potential buyers, said Miller. A member of the firm’s national dealer board, Miller said he first heard about the idea in October.

Hyundai offers the assurance plan for involuntary job loss but also personal bankruptcy (if self-employed), an overseas transfer or accidental death, he said.

There’s no charge for the assurance program plus buyers get all the other incentives currently being offered — up to $5,000 on a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, said Miller.

“This is the best time to buy new or used cars. People can get deals,” he said.

Other area dealers are also promoting available incentives.

In Pekin, Brian Dennison, the manager of Ray Dennison Chevrolet, said rebates and special financing offers abound. “We’ve also got low interest rates on GM (used) cars,” he said.

Customers with a GM loyalty card can get additional incentives, said Dennison.

Mike Murphy, owner of Mike Murphy Ford in Morton, said year-end incentives on Ford vehicles have been extended to Feb. 2. “In addition to employee pricing, there are rebates and special financing,” he said.

“People feel better about the local economy than they do the national economy,” said Murphy.

Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.