The Hyundai Assurance program may well go down as the most innovative and perhaps successful marketing campaign of 2009. The program was so perfect for our economic times that General Motors and Ford eventually followed suit with very similar offers. But according to The New York Times, Hyundai's marketing magic may have worn out with the South Korean automaker's newest offer – an incentive that sounds great until you dig just beneath the surface.

The new Hyundai campaign promises to pay customers during the first six vehicle payments on any model purchased before June 30. As you likely already know, the payment paradigm usually works the other way around, and the new Hyundai plan sounds like a real winner for the customer. In fact, though, the payment basically takes the place of a lump sum cash incentive that would normally be due at signing. That's right, we're talking about the repackaging of existing customer rebates. In this case, you get six small payments (on a Visa card) spread out over six months instead of one big rebate that you would traditionally receive up front. When considering the fact that the standard lump sum rebate can often be used to lower your car payments – while also taking a bite out of interest payments through the life of the loan – we'll take our rebates the old fashioned way.

[Source: The New York Times via Kicking Tires]