Now let's look at the latest effort to compete for car buying dollars here in the United States. Some U.S. automakers are trying a sales pitch pioneered by the South Korean automaker Hyundai. Sarah Cwiek reports from member station WDET.

SARAH CWIEK: When the Hyundai Genesis won the 2009 North American Car of the Year, that got some attention. So did this commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl, showing its competitors astonished.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

CWIEK: Hyundai has shown a knack for sensing the mood of the American consumer. In recent months the company introduced programs that guarantee that if a car buyer loses their job, they can return the car for up to a year without damaging their credit. For a limited time, Hyundai will even make three months' worth of car payments. Jeff Stoltman, a marketing professor at Wayne State University, says there was a nimble response to the nose-diving economy.

Professor JEFF STOLTMAN (Wayne State University): This situation started unfolding pretty rapidly back - early in the fall. So they had looked ahead and pretty much saw how the cards were being laid on the table.

(Soundbite of gong)

CWIEK: At Glassman Automotive in suburban Detroit, customers bang a gong, when they buy a Hyundai. George Glassman has been selling them for almost 20 years and says the company's corporate culture thinks outside the box. He's not surprised that Ford and GM unveiled similar programs this week.

Mr. GEORGE GLASSMAN (Auto dealer): Hyundai is absolutely leading the way.

CWIEK: The carmaker is proving it can get Americans to buy its cars in the midst of a recession.

For NPR News, I'm Sarah Cwiek in Detroit.

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