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by SixFigureStart | April 10, 2009

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They feel your pain -- even if they've got plenty of pain of their own.

Starting early last year, vehicle sales began a steady slide, and they've shriveled even more violently in the wake of mass layoffs. So, now that they're in dire straits, car companies are finally paying attention to what their customers need. (They were oblivious to the fact that gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs wouldn't really appeal to prospective buyers in times of bounding prices, but that's another story.) The not-seemingly-in-danger Hyundai was perhaps the first to offer a guarantee to consumers in early January -- its Assurance program lets buyers off the hook if they're been laid off after making at least two scheduled lease/loan payments. (They can return the car and forget about up to $7,500 worth of future responsibilities.) Ford and General Motors got on board, and, hoping to shock consumers into purchases, constructed similar plans.

Notably, this trend has spread outside the automotive world as guarantees of various sorts have been adopted by a number of other companies. According to SmartMoney magazine, your investment in anything from property rentals (Goldberg Companies, in several states) and suits (Jos. A. Bank) to flights and cruises (jetBlue, Norwegian Cruise Lines) may be covered under such a layoff protection plan. (There's even a program that safeguards your au pair contract -- Au Pair in America is thinking about you too!) But be sensible -- don’t get lured into making risky purchases just because you seem to be operating with a safety net. And make sure to read the fine print.

--Posted by Todd Obolsky, Vault News & Commentary

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