DETROIT - Arnold Schwarz-enegger loves it, says General Motors.
But, Schwarzenegger, box office star and famed Hummer owner, is not the target audience for GM's Hummer H2 concept vehicle.
Instead, GM wants the five-passenger H2, built on GM's full-sized truck platform, to appeal to the average consumer. The goal is to transform Hummer from a rich man's toy into a high-volume family of sport-utilities with the potential of rivaling Jeep.
GM unveiled the Hummer H2 on Sunday, Jan. 9, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
GM bought the rights to the Hummer brand from AM General Corp. for an undisclosed amount in December after five months of negotiations. GM is now in charge of sales, marketing and distribution of current and future Hummer products. That includes the existing Hummer, which GM is renaming the Hummer H1.
Clay Dean, 37, GM's chief designer for the H2, said the concept, as well as the eventual H2 production vehicle, will attract a younger, aggressive customer who may have been intimidated by the Hummer H1's size and its $70,000 price.
'He wants to make a statement. This vehicle will let him do that,' Dean said.
Although GM and AM General did not sign a final agreement until late December, Dean's team of designers started working on the H2 soon after a tentative deal was struck in June.
Since then, they have turned an off-site GM studio in a Detroit suburb into a Hummer shrine.
The studio's walls are plastered with potential Hummer designs. The drawings portray pickups, sport-utilities and SUV-pickup hybrids, all with that distinct Hummer military-machine look. There's even a rough drawing of a big-wheeled Hummer hot rod.
'This is thinking out loud about where the brand can go,' Dean said.
Some of the ideas don't fit the Hummer brand, such as the street rod. 'That won't be a Hummer,' he said.
But the main attraction at the studio is a full-sized clay model of the H2. On the outside, the H2 looks like the H1, the commercial version of AM General's military vehicle, the Humvee. But underneath, the final H2 concept, with its GM truck platform, is closely related to GM sport-utilities, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe.
The result is that the H2 is 7.3 inches shorter and 4.9 inches narrower than the imposing H1. That and a smaller turning radius make it more city-street friendly and give the H2 the ability to fit in a standard parking place, unlike the H1.
Other GM features include the automaker's Autotrac four-wheel drive and OnStar communication systems, as well as the infrared Night Vision system from the new Cadillac DeVille.
TRUE TO THE BRAND
Still, Dean said he does not want GM to dilute the Hummer brand by simply turning it into another Chevrolet or GMC truck. Thus, the H2 takes advantage of traditional Hummer attributes, such as greater ground height and four-wheel all-independent suspension, to give it more off-road capability than other GM sport-utilities, he said.
Other Hummer highlights include hooks for hauling and skid plates protecting the entire underbody.
AM General officials, including CEO James Armour, have visited the H2 studio to make sure GM stays true to the Hummer brand. So has Schwarzenegger, an early proponent for bringing the military Humvee to market as a commercial vehicle.
Dean said GM has kept its ears open to suggestions from AM General, Schwarzenegger and other Hummer owners.
Says Dean: 'We want to make sure most of all that we don't drop the ball.'