HUMMER, An Obituary: 1999-2010 Page 2

February 24, 2010
Angular Front Exterior View - 2008 HUMMER H3 4WD 4-door SUV Alpha

Angular Front Exterior View - 2008 HUMMER H3 4WD 4-door SUV Alpha

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Try as I might, I can't think of a more broadly told morality tale than that of HUMMER. An All-American allure gave GM a glib counterpunch to Jeep's Wrangler; the comeuppance came as the HUMMER turned into a cameo player in a wartime drama, and a fuel-economy pariah in a leaner, meaner time. GM didn't ever have to egg on its critics; HUMMER did it for them, even if most of the punches it took were unfair.

GM's Chapter 11 was the final call for HUMMER. One could argue GM could do better with HUMMER than with GMC, which it chose to save. I've often thought HUMMER would have been a better long-term strategy than GMC--it's more clearly defined from Chevy's truck lineup. But cold cash trumps all, and GMC turns in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit, while HUMMER drains the company's coffers--financially and politically, but mostly symbolically.

So what's left for HUMMER? With the shaky sale to Sichuan Tengzhong called off today, GM says HUMMER will get an orderly wind-down along the lines of those planned for Pontiac and Saturn. While Saab was saved at the last minute, there's almost no chance HUMMER will escape the guillotine. Only the state of Louisiana or Indiana, where some HUMMERs are built, could find any value in what's left, and neither seems a likely savior. That's particularly true of Indiana, since it already has Honda, Subaru and Toyota plants humming within its borders, though AM General still builds military vehicles near South Bend.

Sure, I'm disappointed there's no "mission accomplished" chapter to tack on my book, and for the team that's tried to rescue some future for HUMMER, we send our condolences. After all, HUMMER is in a better place. With all the political backwash, it never was an easy vehicle to swallow. China Inc. ownership would have hamstrung its uniquely American bona fides. And jingoism doesn't have all that much elbow room in America anymore, anyway. Even the Army is getting out of the Humvee business. That's a death knell even the Liberty Bell couldn't outring.

HUMMER's triumph and shame were simultaneous: it was pure emotional appeal, and didn't try to be more. For better or worse, HUMMER's future never was anything but its own.

And sometimes self-determination bites you in the ass.

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