Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

HUMMER, An Obituary: 1999-2010

Follow Marty

2008 HUMMER H2

2008 HUMMER H2

Enlarge Photo

HUMMER's dead.

Short of a last-minute rescue by an unlikely, as yet unheralded white knight, the newest GM brand to the fold will be folded, like so much of its trucks' hard-edged sheetmetal.

It's been about 12 years since the notion of buying the rights to AM General's Hummer products took hold at GM. Back then, gasoline was under a buck a gallon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Humvee owner and fan, not the Governator. In case you haven't been patched in, change has come to America--in the form of war, rising oil prices, higher fuel economy standards, and more government say in what you'll drive in the next ten years.

Change has roiled the auto industry, too. Just in the past year, just at HUMMER's parent company GM alone, wrenching change already has shuttered two storied brands with more skin in the game than HUMMER--Pontiac and Saturn. And it's evicted Sweden's Saab from the empire, into a vaguely shady deal with minuscule sportscar maker Spyker. Chalk it up to GM's Lost Decade--the one that saw market share drain away as "more brands, more vehicles" took the inevitable toll on the company, ballooned its debt, and sent it packing into bankruptcy with four or more essentially dead brands around its neck.

All along, HUMMER might have been destined for failure. GM executives thought a HUMMER brand would have legs beyond the iconic Humvee, and it didn't. Even with warnings from within their own executive ranks--and a few Cassandras who accurately predicted its military image would backfire on it someday--GM set up an expensive network of dealers and a hungry product pipeline to fill. They could have built the singular H2 concept; instead they planned a whole Jeep-baiting brand of symbolically challenged, metaphorically troubled tanks.

I spent a lot of time with HUMMER's godfathers soon after the brand launched, among them Wayne Cherry, Mike DiGiovanni, Ken Lindesmith. In my book, HUMMER: How A Little Truck Company Hit the Big Time, Thanks to Saddam, Schwarzenegger, and GM, I found out why GM even ventured into the HUMMER concept and turned it into a brand. During the Ron Zarrella regime and the faddish days of the late 1990s, new nameplates like HUMMER were seen as GM's ticket to salvation and out of the doldrums, while it visibly brought down nameplates like Oldsmobile by removing logos from the cars it sold.

2004 HUMMER H1

2004 HUMMER H1

Enlarge Photo

First a concept, the HUMMER had a brief moment in the sun. For a while, it was the four-wheeled equivalent to the American flag, or the Statue of Liberty. AM General Humvees had rolled across CNN for weeks during the first Gulf War, inspiring the whole idea of franchising the look in the first place. The GM concept won fans, among them a young upstart car guy employed by rivals--Bob Lutz. GM put the H2 on sale in 2001, and soon enough, war resumed in Iraq--turning hazy glory into discomfiting reminders of pax Americana's limits.

Then, of course, it became the flashpoint for controversy. Tree huggers reviled it so much, HUMMER dealers were firebombed. Ford had its own melodrama with the "Exxon Valdez" Excursion; GM had the HUMMER. By 2005, even the folks at CNN knew HUMMER's days as an icon were numbered; when they asked me if HUMMER wasn't simply an appealing fantasy for wealthy guys, I couldn't refute it.

Even the introduction of the smaller H3 didn't soften its diehard image; neither did a grassroots "HUMMER Helps" effort that some of us thought was more whitewash than red cross.


Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (9)
  1. Marty - I am in agreement with you. The concept of GM closing Pontiac and Hummer and keeping GMC is just completely bizzare to put it mildely. Unlike you I have no attachment whatsoever to Hummer. However, it's difficult to miss the brand strength and the fact that if managed correctly, Hummer could be a cash cow. There are two niche markets Hummer could easily fit. The first one is the low production, very high end killing machine that both the H1 and H2 fit perfectly well. Given the high price, margins would easily take care of the lower production quantities. The real killer market though is the small serious off road players. The Wrangler is too big, too heavy. The engines are too big. It seems that if Hummer had positioned it's H2O concept with a small engine, lightweight body, under the Wrangler, GM would have had a winner - lower cost, lower emissions and gas consumption. Instead, we have the big GMC boxes (and possibly the upcoming like xB fighter - another little box). The business case for Hummer may not be big, but it certainly trumps GMC's limited, stateside only market impact.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. This is an obituary Al Gore has been waiting to read for a long time.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. This is really sad and you wrote a nice article about Hummer. What a great brand, history and story.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. If GM had been smart it would have put the H2 and H3 on diets to drop 1,000 to 2,000 pounds and developed a clean twin turbo four cylinder diesel engine for them. Such an engine could have easily been handled by Isuzu, one of the larger diesel engine builders in the world. They were already in the GM fold. However, those bozos knew it all. That is why the company is now a ward of the Federal government (i.e., kept alive with our tax dollars). Now Horacio on CSI Miami and his crew will have to find a new rod!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Sad news, but great piece!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. Sad to see this. HUMMER is a globally recognized brand. People down here don't even l like SUVs but the new H3 still sold well. I'm holding out for another deal to be made. Remember, GM said Saab would be dead and then look what happened with it.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. The only folks who will really miss Hummer are the dealers and guys w/ inadequacy issues.
    Even US Military Officers realize how dumb Hummers are - parkinglots on US bases aren't filled w/ Hummers: They're filled w/ Ford Rangers, Accords and old Volvos.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. Goodbye and good riddance.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  9. to the wish they had one crowd, you typical knock on something you cant have are afford I have run the wheels off my h2 all across the us.from hrs at 80 miles per hr to doging it off road during hunting season. the only negative is mileage.Untill your willing to park all the real work horse pickups that really burn an honest 12 plus miles per gallon close your pie hole.I have owned them all,and there all good for the application one needs.Fire the GM BRASS NOT THE HUMMER.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.