A REAL HUMMER?
On the silver screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger has tackled all sorts of
villains. But perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was stopping traffic in
New York’s busy Times Square as he drove the prototype Hummer H2 SUT into the
ABC TV Studios. An avid Hummer fan—he has owned five at various
times—Schwarzenegger has been an unpaid advisor to the General Motors unit as
its developed Hummer’s second model. “I feel I’m part of the Hummer family,” the
Austrian superstar declared, “so I want to make sure the (H2) has the
ballsy-ness and ruggedness of the original H1.” GM believes it can sell 40,000
of the new Sport-Utility Trucks a year when it hits dealers next year. Hummer
officials insist the H2 will be notably more lavish and comfortable—without
giving up its class-leading off-road capabilities. Efforts are already underway,
sources confirmed, to develop an even smaller H3 model. Incidentally, while
Schwarzenegger wasn’t paid for his NY appearance, GM did donate $13 million to
the star’s favorite charity, the Inner-City Games.
The Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen, the German answer to the Hummer, will be
making its long-delayed American debut. Renamed the G-Class for U.S., it will go
up against a range of ultra-luxury sport-utes, such as the Lincoln Navigator and
even the Hummer. Indeed, Mercedes’ U.S. marketing chief, Ken Enders, pointedly
noted that Austrian native Schwarzenegger has “been seen” behind the wheel of a
G-Class on more than a few occasions. “All we can say to Arnie is, ‘you’ll be
back.’” (Mercedes used a video of its own star fan, musician Eric Clapton, to
build enthusiasm for the NY roll-out.) Equipped with a 5.0-liter, 300 horsepower
V-8, there will be no factory options for the loaded-up G-Class, other than
choice of exterior and interior colors. Priced at $72,500, Mercedes is looking
for a limited market of 1500 vehicles a year.
New Lincoln style guru Gerry McGovern says this MK9 coupe will presage
Lincolns to come, even if the brand doesn’t build another massive two-door coupe
that looks as if it could easily swallow a V-12 engine. Drawn from the heritage
of Lincolns from the 1940s to 1960s, the MK9 shares some elements with the
recent Ford Forty-Nine concept, including a cockpit split by a tall central
tunnel, invisible rails for the front seats, chrome-accented door panels and
clean, almost sparse sheetmetal detailing. While the greenhouse resembles
nothing less than a Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, the Lincoln’s massive 22-inch wheels
are as hot-rod as your uncle’s Continental.
While the new Mk9 concept vehicle isn’t destined to reach Lincoln
showrooms, insiders promise that it will spawn a series of spin-offs, some of
which eventually might make it to market. While there seems to be little demand
for high-end coupes these days, an alternative might borrow from the ’61 Lincoln
and offer rear “suicide doors.” A well-placed Ford Motor Co. official also
hinted that he’d favor development of a four-door convertible for Lincoln—a
design theme that hasn’t been available in nearly half a century. Lincoln is
also eyeing the growing market for high-performance luxury products, such as the
BMW “M” cars and those built by Mercedes’ AMG subsidiary.
What if they gave a recession and nobody came? Despite all the
doom-and-gloom reports, car sales remain surprisingly strong, suggested Jim
Press, during the annual International Motor Press Assoc. breakfast. Senior VP
at Toyota, Press insisted the market will remain strong—unless the industry
itself fails to deal “responsibly” with social challenges posed by the
automobile. These include pollution and increasing congestion on the highways.
“We have to take responsibility for our mobility,” he declared. Press added his
belief that the fuel economy of the average automobile will increase by as much
as 10 miles per gallon before the decade is out.