Confidence is all over the headlines these days. Consumers don't have enough of it, and some argue our economy desperately needs it, even if there is often not much to feel all that confident about. However, some companies are making moves to give their customers some peace of mind in troubled times.
Consumer confidence currently remains at an abysmal low of 26, according to the Conference Board's monthly data. It's not hard to see why, as unemployment rates continue to rise to levels we haven't seen in a long while, and there's plenty of question out there as to whether the government's economic policies are going to right the ship or make things worse.
Ford is offering to cover car payments up to $700 for a year if buyers who purchase the vehicles between March 31 and June 1 lose their jobs. Ford is offering the perk through a third-party underwriter.
GM has a similar plan, with a name that pretty much reflects our current situation -- the "Total Confidence" plan. GM vows to make payments up to $500 for nine months after a buyer loses his or her job. That's just for people who buy cars in April.
Of course, GM and Ford aren't exactly paving a bold path, since Hyundai made waves several months ago when it said that for a year, it would accept vehicle returns from buyers who can no longer make payments due to joblessness or disability. Interestingly, few have taken Hyundai up on the offer so far, although apparently it has worked to increase awareness of the company.
Earlier in March, AutoNation
Closer to risk-free than risky
The beleaguered automakers aren't the only ones giving consumers a break in order to give them a shot of confidence. The idea of "layoff protection" is slowly making its presence known, as companies begin to acknowledge the fact that consumers' newfound fiscal responsibility -- or downright fear -- is killing retail and other consumer-facing companies.
Jos. A. Bank
Coaxing reluctant shoppers
The financial health of companies that offer such deals is an interesting twist when one contemplates the wisdom of such moves; for example, one might be tempted to joke that GM's Total Confidence program sounds a little like Total BS, since it's pretty clear GM itself is already in dire straits financially.
Overall, though, there is a good marketing tactic at work here too. These innovative moves certainly draw attention. And for a company like JetBlue, such peace of mind may very well not only lure people to take a chance on travel, but lead them to choose the company over rivals like Continental
These companies aren't being blindly optimistic and ignoring how frightened many consumers are, but instead are giving them a little more reason to feel like spending is a little less risky if the worst should happen down the road. And of course, although many people are, unfortunately, losing their jobs, many others will hang on to theirs despite their concerns.
Although many consumers have arguably reached their spending limits already as debt levels have been way overdone, fiscally responsible people are reining in their spending, too; that's clearly at work in our economy right now. Overall, investors should be glad to see their companies make innovative moves that may very well work to loosen some consumers' death grips on their pocketbooks a little -- or at the very least, create a dash of brand goodwill.
Stock news, financial commentary, and your daily dose of Foolishness: Get plugged in to The Motley Fool on Twitter!