General Motors has pulled together a marketing and engineering team for Hummer. Now it just needs a final deal with AM General Corp., a strategic plan and new products.
GM has named Michael Di Giovanni as its Hummer marketing manager and Ken Lindensmith as the Hummer program manager at the GM Truck Group, company sources said. Also, Clayton Dean is the chief designer of a new Hummer vehicle, the sources said.
The team means GM is moving ahead to exploit its deal to market Hummers. But the future of the team and the Hummer brand remain in limbo as GM and AM General, the maker of the Hummer sport-utility and the Humvee military version, try to work out a final agreement.
If GM can complete the deal in time, it is expected to unveil a Hummer concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in January in Detroit.
Di Giovanni had been GM's executive director of the business decision support center since 1996. Lindensmith had been on the GM Truck Group's planning team and has been overseeing negotiations with AM General. Dean is the brand character design manager for Chevrolet trucks.
Sources close to GM's Hummer project, known internally as Project Maria, say GM wants a high-volume sport-utility - a 'Hummer Lite' - that complements the current low-volume Hummer and does not dilute the Hummer brand name.
GM would not confirm the names of the Hummer team leaders or future products. But GM spokesman Dan Flores said the company is working with AM General to put the people and plans in place to move forward as soon as the final agreement is signed.
'Speed to market continues to be an imperative for General Motors,' Flores said.
Under a tentative deal struck in June, GM will buy the rights to the Hummer brand name. Beginning in 2000, GM will take over marketing and distribution of the Hummer sport-utility and any other vehicles carrying the name.
In return, privately owned AM General gets a Hummer investor with deep pockets and an additional source of revenue for years to come if AM General produces the Hummer Lite.
'What we're working out is a long-term strategic partnership,' AM General spokesman Craig MacNab said.
AM General already is poised to produce a new vehicle near its existing Hummer-Humvee assembly plant in Mishawaka, Ind. In August, AM General union workers approved a contract addendum for a possible new plant.
$200 MILLION PLANT
A local newspaper, the South Bend Tribune, reported the new plant could cost as much as $200 million and produce 40,000 vehicles per year. The newspaper cited unnamed AM General sources. AM General's MacNab would not confirm the report.
Sales of the Hummer have ranged between 800 and 1,000 units each of the past four years. The vehicle is sold at 54 Hummer dealerships in North America.
GM has been studying the Hummer market. During a recent Hummer Club rally in September in Moab, Utah, GM interviewed Hummer owners and enthusiasts.
Those who attended the focus group meetings said GM asked marketing questions about the current Hummer but offered no details on future products.
John Sweeney, president of the 350-member national Hummer Club, is pleased about GM taking over the Hummer brand.
Said Sweeney: 'It should only improve things, because GM has a lot of money to put behind it.'
Staff Reporters Aaron Robinson and Jean Halliday contributed to this report