Hyundai and Kia dealers’ efforts to retain customers in the wake of a recent fuel economy scandal have largely worked, thanks in part to some “goodwill cash” the automakers gave dealers to satisfy irate owners.

After admitting it had overinflated the fuel economy figures of 13 separate models from the 2011 to 2013 model years – some 172,000 cars in Canada – Kia and Hyundai promised to reimburse affected owners for the extra gasoline they didn’t expect they’d have to buy.

Together the automakers have set aside some $412 million to cover the cost of that debit-card-based reimbursement program, reports Automotive News, but they also earmarked some money to hand to dealers to cover “goodwill-related charges” like free service and car washes for affected customers.

And dealers are reporting the freebies are working. “Some customers are actually reacting with some form of delight: ‘Really? I’m getting a debit card [for the extra gas costs]?’” said dealership manager Don Hobden. “It’s been really well received.”

Hobden, the executive manager of six Kia dealerships in Alabama, Indiana and Kentucky, says he’s heard of only one upset customer at his stores.

But while the automakers have managed to retain most of their current customers, the fuel consumption error has caused many new car buyers to reconsider opting for a Kia or Hyundai.

Kia saw operating profits fall by 51 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 versus the previous year, Automotive News reports. The company says they expect 2013 to be “a difficult year.”

(Automotive News)