HUMMER REDUX.
Monday, June 17, 2019 at 03:33PM
Editor

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. The news that GM is investigating bringing the Hummer back, only this time with all-electric power, has been ricocheting around the Internet today ever since David Welch’s story about it first appeared on Bloomberg this morning. 

I always considered the demise of Hummer to be one of the real tragedies due to the GM bankruptcy. (Well, that and Pontiac, which I had the distinct pleasure of working on early in my ad career, but that’s a subject for another column, or three.) People may only remember the political incorrectness of the Hummer image at the end of its life, because piling on the brand was all the rage back then, but the Hummer had rocketed on the scene and in short order established itself as the ultimate off-road vehicle. In fact, Hummer had made serious inroads into challenging Jeep’s image with a series of imposing products and exceptional – and memorable –marketing (my favorite from back then was the “” TV spot). And Hummer design clearly influenced Jeep designers long after the Hummer was shelved. (You only have to look at today’s Jeeps to see the lingering influence of Hummer.) In fact, momentum for Hummer was about to accelerate, as the brand was poised to unleash a hot, new, smaller product entry that would have really made its mark in the market.

The Hummer HX Concept, which I had the pleasure of seeing at GM Design even before it appeared at the auto shows (images below), was one of the most intriguing concepts – in any segment – that I had seen up until that point. A young group of talented designers at GM Design were given the design brief, and the result was the HX concept – it was whispered to be called the H4 if it had been produced – a machine that bristled with creativity and interesting features that still resonate to this day. And even though the concept was equipped with a V6, it was no secret that the base model would have a 4-cylinder, and a turbo-Diesel was part of the product plan too.

I strongly believe that the HX/H4 would have launched Hummer into an entirely new dimension, and it had “hit” written all over it. But then the economy blew up in the Great Recession, and for the Washington overlords assigned to “fixing” GM, jettisoning the “gas-guzzling” Hummer brand was an easy call. 

But now, the fact that Mary Barra and Mark Reuss are seriously investigating bringing the Hummer brand back – in all-electric form – is really encouraging news. It’s ballsy and bold and suggests that good things – and thinking – are happening at GM at this very minute. It also underscores the internal push to electrification going on at GM right now. Mary Barra has openly stated that GM is building toward an “all-electric future,” but I don’t think people realize what that actually means, or how all-encompassing this new product push will be. GM is hard at work developing BEVs for every segment it currently competes in. Think about that fact for a moment. Yes, the transition from ICE vehicles will take time (and ICEs will still be available for years and years to come), but by 2025 we will see a significant BEV presence on our roads, and GM plans on leading the way with a full range of available BEVs, including, as rumors suggest, the return of Hummer.

Okay, it’s time to pour a giant bucket of realistic on the proceedings here, because the likelihood of seeing an all-electric Hummer on the streets and byways of America anytime soon is pretty much a nonstarter. I am guessing five years from right now is a realistic expectation for the Hummer product cadence to begin, but even so I believe the future for this resuscitated brand is definitely on an upward trajectory.

Brands come and go in this business. Some are jettisoned to the dustheap of automotive history never to return, while others are brought back to have another moment in the sun. That the Hummer brand was cut short due to the bankruptcy (and the hordes of pitchfork-wielding, politically correct zealots who wanted it to die) has been well-documented. 

But Hummer was never just an ordinary brand that would go away quietly, or for good, for that matter. There were plenty of True Believers – both inside and outside of GM – who believed in the efficacy of the Hummer brand and considered its carefully crafted premise as the ultimate off-road vehicle to have barely scratched the surface and that there was much more to come. That GM is now considering bringing it back, with none of the lingering negatives previously associated with it, is indeed impressive. 

The possibilities for visual and engineering creativity with a BEV Hummer should be exciting to contemplate in the coming years.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(GM Images)

 

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