The Car Connection HUMMER H2 Overview
The HUMMER H2 has gone down in marketing history as a classic case study. Launched at the right time, with the right idea, the tides turned on the massive, militaristic ute within what seemed like months.
GM thought it had a coup on its hands when it scored the rights to sell SUVs wearing the HUMMER badge. In hindsight, that idea has been overthrown.
The roots of the HUMMER H2 run deep in America's military. The original Humvee was a replacement for the World War II-era Jeep--a bigger, more flexible vehicle capable of more than light transport. AM General, an Indiana-based contractor, won the rights to build its idea, what would become the Humvee--and in the early 1990s, seeking to diversify its fortunes in an era of waning military spending, it started selling Humvees to civilians.
With star-studded clientele like Arnold Schwarzenegger behind it, the Hummer brand seemed to be exactly what General Motors was missing in its portfolio: a spendy SUV with the same pull in red-state America as the Jeep. GM approached AM General to license the name in the late 1990s, and by the turn of the century, it had won a deal to build HUMMER vehicles in its own plants under exclusive license.MORE: Read our final 2009 HUMMER H2 review
The plan to create a whole division around the HUMMER nameplate started with the H2. A derivative of GM's big SUVs--essentially a beefed-up Tahoe--the H2 wore a much more angular set of panels that hit the perfect tone for its niche market. Parts were raided from all over the AM General and GM empire to give it incredible off-road ruggedness, while the suspension and powertrain were essentially big GM truck/SUV bits.
The final version of the truck, which went from concept to a new set of Quonset-styled showrooms in record time, was a 6,700-pound vehicle that could tow 8,600 pounds. A 6.0-liter V-8 with 325 horsepower was mated to four-wheel drive and a four-speed automatic. Gas mileage was mostly kept off the record.
The idea proved brilliant, for at least a short while. HUMMER had the fortune--and misfortune--of launching just prior to the Iraq War, and the clash of commercials up against live war coverage gave the brand and the vehicle an instant opposition. Rising gas prices were a bigger complication, as HUMMER moved the H2 through its early model years.
By 2005, the boom was off the rose: HUMMER sales were falling, and GM accelerated plans for a pickup-bedded H2 SUT and a smaller truck-based H3. They arrived, but more as footnotes to GM's looming financial woes. The company was spiraling into financial distress--and couldn't afford to develop a new range of cars and trucks for its massive brand footprint.
The H2 soldiered on through GM's eventual bankruptcy in 2009, but would end up a casualty. A deal to sell the HUMMER brand to Chinese investors fell apart. GM shuttered the brand--along with Saturn and Pontiac--and sold its final HUMMERs at fire-sale prices. Some saw it as a fitting end.