Dealers: Hummer is worth keeping as market shrinks

Peter Caliendo can recite the three words General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner used to describe GM's future with Hummer: "review," "revamp" and "sale."

Caliendo, general manager of a Hummer dealership in central Massachusetts, said the problem is that "sale" is the only word anybody hears.

Dealers say they don't want Hummer to go, even if it means keeping the brand for the shrinking number of niche customers who want Hummer vehicles for hauling and off-roading — and even if it means turning green a brand that makes environmentalists see red.

Caliendo said dealers want vehicles that let them take part in GM's turnaround efforts, as some dealers have done with Cadillac and the CTS.

"To think that they can't do that with Hummer is a mistake," said Caliendo, of Long Cadillac-Hummer-Saab in Southborough.

Not blaming Wagoner

Through May, U.S. Hummer sales fell 36.0 percent from the year-ago period.

Dealers say showroom traffic is down by as much as 40 percent in recent weeks of $4-a-gallon gasoline. But they hesitate to attribute that to the possible sale of the brand.

Ed Williamson owns two Hummer stores in south Florida. He said his floor traffic is much slower than in previous years, more because of high fuel prices than Wagoner's announcement.

In 2006, Williamson sold 1,315 Hummers. He sold 857 last year. "I sure hope I get to 700 this year. I don't know if I'm going to make it," said Williamson, owner of Williamson Cadillac-Hummer in Miami and Vera Cadillac-Hummer in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

GM is not pressing dealers to order more vehicles, Williamson and other dealers say. The UAW strike this year against American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. gave GM a chance to trim excess inventory and delayed deliveries to dealers in some areas.

Inder Dosanjh owns a Hummer store near the San Francisco Bay area. He's still waiting for 15 Hummer H2s. Ten are already sold.

No questions

Dosanjh said customer concerns about Hummer's future aren't to blame for any drop in showroom traffic.

His staff prepared for questions from customers about Hummer by posting a memo in the store. Not one customer has asked about the possible sale, he said.

Traffic in Dosanjh's Hummer of Pleasanton in Dublin, Calif., is down about 40 percent. But traffic for all other vehicles at his five Bay Area dealerships selling GM brands is down about 30 percent.

Jerry Seiner owns two Hummer stores in north Utah. He said Hummer is "a real opportunity" for GM if it changed the brand's public perception by giving it hybrid technology. It would become a Jeep and Land Rover killer, he said.

"Hummer is the off-road niche, and that market isn't shrinking or going away," Seiner said. "Not one of the brands in the niche is green today, and that's the opportunity."

Jamie LaReau contributed to this report

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