Here at Motoring Weekly, we recently read an article in Automotive News about whether General Motors will resurrect the Hummer brand. This was on the back of sales successes for large SUVs and in recent days we have seen reports that RAM pretty much saved FIAT Chrysler in June with ever increasing sales. Let’s start by looking at the brand that had a love/hate relationship with the media and buying public – and some of that hate was misplaced.
The Hummer brand was born out of the Jeep marque, way back in 1971, when AM General was formed by American Motors Corporation to manufacture the non civilian (aka military) Jeeps and other kit such as buses. Over time, as AMC was bought and sold by Renault, the AM General brand was sold off, developed the Hummer and then sold that sub-brand to General Motors. So, AM General has its roots back into one of the original off-roaders and as Jeep was a shortened slang for a General Purpose (G-P) vehicle, so too was the Hummer.
The first “High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle” aka the HMMWV or Humvee or Hummer was released as a military vehicle back in 1983. Thanks to the first Gulf War, the Hummer became a popular choice for tough talking celebrities, despite actually being unsuitable for the Middle East and changes in combat style. When GM bought the brand from AM General, they renamed it the H1 and started planning for other models. The H1 was powered by a range of diesel engines from 5.7 litres to 6.6 litres. It ceased production in 2006.
The H2 was released in 2002 and was slightly smaller than the H1 being based on a modified Chevrolet truck chassis. These underpinnings meant that the vehicle was now using common parts making it easier to service and repair. The H2 used a 6 litre or 6.2 litre V8 shared with other GM trucks. This model ended its life in 2009.
The H3 was smaller again using 3.5 litre to 5.3 litre motors – five cylinders at the low end and a V8 at the top end. It was released in 2005 and ended with the brand’s demise in 2010. The H3 was unfairly hit with the media being critical of it being a heavy gas guzzler – especially in Australia where reports grossly misrepresented what the vehicle was. It was actually lighter, smaller and more economical than several Japanese competitors because the Hummer name was associated with the H1 which was bigger all round and heavier.
When GM collapsed and was reformed as a “new” company during the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, several of their brands were sold off or discontinued. Hummer was one of them because fuel pricing was stratospherically high and there was an expectation that the market would change – in fact at the time large truck sales were slow simply due to the high oil price. All the manufacturers tried to concentrate on light passenger cars and so in 2010, Hummer was written off with no future.
A decade later and big trucks are as popular as ever, thanks to a much lower oil price and much better fuel economy. The Big 3 all have products in this market segment and there really is no need to resurrect an old brand name. For GM, Chevrolet and GMC have the reputation to build similar sized trucks to the Hummer range and bearing in mind that later Hummers were essentially Chevrolet/GMC trucks under the skin anyway, why dilute the offerings?
The SUV market has also changed completely in the last decade, we have seen every man and his dog release one – Rolls-Royce being the latest with Aston Martin hot on their heels to get in to the market. Where once there were one or two models at the high end, we now see more than fifteen on offer from all corners of the globe. The mid range is also saturated with models and a new Hummer would cost a fortune to bring to market unless it was simply a badge-engineered GMC.
Here at Motoring Weekly, we’re not a fan of bringing back a marque that has long gone – several have tried over the years with all new models, yet they never succeed. That is probably because the glory days are gone and can never be regained. When you try and recreate a brand in a different market segment, no one wants it because it doesn’t fit in its new home.
We say leave Hummer in a bygone era and concentrate on what is going to happen in the future: electric power. A decade ago, a 3rd party technology company (Raser) actually converted an H3 to be a plugin hybrid, however it went nowhere – as did the company who went bankrupt and restructured as a geo-thermal power company. We now know that GM missed out on doing a deal with Rivian – Ford got their pens on the paper first – and Bollinger has a vehicle ready for the market. Perhaps GM would better spend their money on licensing some tech from Bollinger to make an electric GMC truck.