Hyundai hopes locked gas prices assure customers

DETROIT, June 30 (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co 005380.KS on Tuesday offered to allow customers to lock in fuel prices for new vehicles at $1.49 per gallon for a year in a sales promotion that takes aim at the economic anxiety of American consumers.

The Hyundai “gas lock” program builds on the Korean automaker’s customer assurance program launched in January that has supported its sales during the worst U.S. auto downturn in nearly three decades.

Customers who buy or lease an eligible Hyundai vehicle from July 1 to August 31 would be eligible to lock in the gasoline price for a maximum number of gallons that equals up to 12,000 miles divided by the combined EPA fuel economy of the vehicle.

For example, a base four-cylinder Sonata is rated at 25 miles per gallon combined by the EPA, making that car eligible for up to 480 gallons under the Hyundai plan, or if gas is $3 per gallon, a savings of about $725.

Research showed nearly 40 percent of potential new car buyers were staying on the sidelines due to uncertainty over gas prices and the program aims to give them price stability, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said.

Chrysler offered a sales incentive in 2008 that allowed customers to lock in fuel purchases at $2.99 per gallon using a prepaid card good for three years on many models. Gas was pressing $4 per gallon in the United States last year.

The Hyundai program covers new Accents except for the base model, as well as Tiburon, Elantra, Elantra Touring, Entourage, Sonata, Azera, Santa Fe, Tucson and Veracruz models. (Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Carol Bishopric)