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In the new book about the history of HUMMER, TCC editor Marty Padgett explains how the brand got... Read more »
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In the new book about the history of HUMMER, TCC editor Marty Padgett explains how the brand got its auto-show inauguration.

HUMMER, that most American of automotive brands, is going global. But if vehicles like the big, bold H2 trip alarms for American environmentalists, how will HUMMER play in “green”-consciousEurope?

General Motors will invest $100 million to upgrade its assembly plant in Struandale, South Africa to produce HUMMER’s downsized H3 sport-utility vehicle. Production is scheduled to begin by the fourth quarter of 2006, and when the plant is fully up-and-running, it will assemble both left- and right-hand-drive versions of the H3, with both gasoline and diesel powertrains.

“This is part of our strategy to make HUMMER a premium brand globally,” said Susan Docherty, HUMMER’s new general manager. The “iconic” nature of the brand, she added, is “something GM definitely needs to capitalize on.”

Conquering the world

It certainly looked like GM had scored a hit when HUMMER’s H2 was launched three years ago. The massive ute made magazine covers, talk shows and rock videos, and sales soared well beyond the automaker’s most ambitious expectations, more than doubling in 2003 to 34,529.

But few vehicles have proved more polarizing. The H2 and the original, military-style H1, connected with those looking for ultimate off-road capabilities and the biggest, baddest image possible. But to environmentalists, “The H2 is a poster child for what’s wrong” with the auto industry, and SUVs in particular, said David Healy, automotive analyst for Burnham Securities.

Whether it’s the result of an enviro-backlash, rising fuel prices, or simply the fad factor, HUMMER sales slipped sharply last year, dropping 17 percent, to 28,898.

Now the GM division is hoping to regain momentum. The critical piece in the new strategy is the launch of the H3. HUMMER’s third model line shares its fundamentals with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. But the H3 has been reinforced to provide extreme off-road capabilities. And it gets the same in-your-face design cues, such as the vertical windshield and the seven-slot grille, as the H2 and H1.

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