Joel Ewanick, VP of marketing at Hyundai, was recently named the grand marketer of the year for his work in turning around the car company s brand.  The honor was given to him by the editors at Brandweek, who chronicle his ability to turn the company’s brand around from a one-time punchline to a trusted automaker.

From Brandweek:

“We kept saying, Why aren’t you buying a car right now? You say you want to buy one, but you re not doing it!” says Ewanick, the vp of marketing at Hyundai Motor America.

Ewanick notes that at the time car dealers were offering some of the best financing deals anyone had ever seen. We pressed, and we pressed.

Finally, he hit pay dirt. It turned out they were in a fearful state. And once you understand that fear, then you can come up with something like Assurance.

The Hyundai Assurance plan, ushered in with splashy Super Bowl commercials, makes a simple promise: If you finance or lease a new Hyundai, and then lose your job, you can return it. The company later upped the ante in Academy Award ads by offering to make loan payments for three months if consumers financed or leased a Hyundai before the end of April and subsequently lost their jobs. In July, Hyundai kicked into fifth gear with the Assurance Gas Lock offer, which promised that if the owner of certain new models pay more than $1.49 a gallon at the pump, Hyundai will pony up the difference for a year.

Sales of Hyundai cars have steadily improved in an era of weakened sales across the board, and consumer perception of the car maker is at an all-time high. Congratulations to Mr. Ewanick.