Hummer Plans More Models Soon

2003 HUMMER H2 (6/9/2002)
Side Track: Hummer H1(6/9/2002)

The new Hummer H2 hasn’t even hit the road yet, at least not officially, but the new General Motors division is already working up some big plans for a significantly expanded product lineup, senior company officials tell

The long-rumored H3 is at the top of the list, and is likely to win formal approval by November or December, reveals Hummer General Manager Mike DiGiovanni. What would be the third major platform for the brand is likely to be sized close to the current Chevrolet TrailBlazer, while still being able to traverse the world’s most challenging off-road courses.

“We’re 95 percent there,” he said, though it’s still taking some creative engineering and planning to make an effective business case. The challenge, hints another Hummer insider, is to come up with a vehicle that maintains the same level of go-anywhere functionality, while driving the price down to the “low $30,000 range.” Early prototypes would have cost about $10,000 more, or nearly as much as the H2.

Big improvements

1999 AM General Hummer 4-door Wagon The original Hummer, now renamed H1, is likely to undergo some big improvements over the next few years. High on the list of upgrades would be a new powertrain to replace the slow, noisy and rough-riding diesel now offered. It has been a decade since the original Hummer rolled out, notes DiGiovanni, and it’s due for a remake. The challenge, he admits, is coming up with a cost-effective business plan for a vehicle currently selling less than 1000 units a year.

Even as dealers begin taking delivery of the H2, there are already some changes being planned. The biggest criticism being leveled against the new vehicle concerns the design of the instrument panel. And GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has given the green light to upgrade the IP, perhaps as early as the 2005 model year. Indeed, Lutz’s deft touch has already been felt, acknowledges DiGiovanni. GM’s “car czar” ordered some last-minute upgrades to the interior, especially for the optional leather trim package, that made it far more refined than was originally planned.

One possibility being given serious consideration would offer customers a variety of replaceable dashboard fascias, much like the interchangeable faceplates on some of today’s cellular phones. The exposed bolts on the H2 dash are functional and would make such a switch quick and easy.

Hi-po Hummer?

Meanwhile, look for a high-performance version of the H2, and perhaps other Hummer models, according to DiGiovanni. They’d “offer more performance and be more luxurious,” he tells TCC. Priced in the low-$60,000 range, the yet-to-be-approved model would be patterned after the BMW M Series, as well as the new Cadillac high-performance line, which will debut next year with the 400-hp CTSi.

If all this isn’t enough, there may be more on the way—though not all limited to the Hummer brand. If that seems confusing, it helps to understand the unusual business arrangement inked by General Motors and AM General in 1999. The latter is the South Bend, Ind., company that produces the military’s High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle. Nicknamed Humvees by the soldiers that man them, they were transformed into the civilian H1.

While AM General “dreamed a lot” about producing a non-military version, “we didn’t have the resources to execute it,” recalls the company’s CEO, Jim Armour. When General Motors came calling, the two firms crafted a contract that gives GM the Hummer brand, in return for a minimum 7-1/2 year contract with AM General to produce the H2.

It is considered highly unlikely AM General would build the H3, even if it wins approval. But Armour feels that if “we prove ourselves with the H2, we’ll have other opportunities with GM.” And, he hints, there could be opportunities to do other civilian projects, perhaps with some other partner, as well.

One thing is clear, the Hummer brand is likely to see big growth if, as expected, consumers give the thumbs up to the new H2.

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