Just the title of this article is going to be enough to get diehards to dig in their heels, regardless of what side of the fence they stand on with GM’s now-defunct HUMMER brand. But now that the brand is dead, I think it’s a good time to reflect on why it’s gone, if it made any difference at all, and what we lost with it.
Let me fully disclose here that I really liked HUMMER. I thought that both the H2 and the H3 were great-looking vehicles. They were uniquely American in design and really tough trucks. As a conservationist and an outdoor enthusiast, I didn’t much care for their gas mileage and in most ways, I thought that they were overkill. But I thought the same about the Yukon and the Excursion. Yet, I never felt an emotional response to either of their designs.
Criticism Was Just But Unfairly Directed
Now I truly believe that the environmentalists can claim a large portion of the demise of HUMMER. While the HUMMER was certainly large, inefficient, and bold in styling, it was the relentless attack on conspicuous consumption that was a key reason for the decline in sales. Everyone from professional athletes to construction foremen had to potentially face the wrath of the environmentally conscious. Real-world mileage for the H2 was in the low teens, but so were a number of other trucks including the Yukon, Excursion, and Grand Cherokee. For most potential buyers, it was just easier to switch to another vehicle that flew below the radar. You know, more sensible trucks like the Range Rover or the QX56.
Just Shifting Sales
And so here is my first criticism for the loss of HUMMER. The military-inspired H2 HUMMER was the iconic HUMMER, but its sales were never a significant percentage of overall truck sales. At its height, HUMMER sold about 34,000 H2s annually. By comparison, Ford still sells about half a million F-150s annually, and GMC is still selling more than 100,000 Yukons annually. If you add the Chevrolet Suburban to GM’s totals, GM still sells 170,000 full-size SUVs each year. This is essentially the same hardware that the HUMMER H2 rolled on, albeit in a much more mainstream package.
What I suspect is that many people who liked the H2’s size and capability moved by choice to a more acceptable brand, thereby avoiding the inevitable passive-aggressive tweets about their lack of concern for the environment. In the end, HUMMER took shots for its sheetmetal and not for its running gear.
HUMMER Was On A Greener Track
Most people that I’ve met didn’t even realize that there were two different models of HUMMERs. In 2005, HUMMER introduced the smaller H3, which was based on the small truck platform from GM. The H3 kept most of the design cues from the H2. Considering that HUMMERs are so rare anyway, many consumers just assume that any HUMMER they see is an H2.
Initially, the H3 came with the in-line five-cylinder engine which got up to 18 miles per gallon on the highway. While this fuel economy rating still had room for improvement, it was pretty good for a truck platform and even competitive with most of the crossovers at the time. Overall, the H3 was a more compact, livable package and quickly outsold the classic H2 with over 50,000 units sold in 2006. Again, these total sales were pretty trivial when compared to total truck sales in the U.S., but it further shows how niche and insignificant HUMMER really was.
The Real Reason Why Losing HUMMER Was A Shame
Despite all of this, I never pictured myself purchasing a HUMMER. For me, it was just too much overkill and too expensive.