O'FALLON, Mo. - Will Hummer's rough-and-ready reputation endure under General Motors?
That's Hummer dealer Jim Lynch's main question as GM takes over the marketing, sale and distribution of Hummers from AM General Corp. in South Bend, Ind.
GM's plans include expanding the product line to appeal to a broader market, beginning with a smaller, less-expensive Hummer H2 that is due in 2002. The original Hummer will be known as H1.
'My hope is that they continue what AM General started in building this brand,' Lynch said. 'GM bought the brand because it is a powerful brand. I hope they realize what made it a powerful brand.'
For Lynch, Hummer's power is its heritage as a 'tough, rugged, capable off-road vehicle' that delivers on its promise to perform as no other vehicle can.
'You see all these ads for Jeeps and other sport-utilities, and they try to make you feel that they do all this stuff that they can't do and everybody knows it,' Lynch says. 'I want H2 owners to feel like these guys are just pretenders, that we've got a real truck here.'
Lynch is the top Hummer dealer in the world, selling only Hummers in his store in this St. Louis suburb. He sold 162 new and used models last year. He is one of three Hummer dealers who have been asked to serve on GM's Hummer Dealer Advisory Council. That makes him fairly confident that he won't lose his franchise.
But GM is still considering how many Hummer dealers it will have to add, whether they will have to be current GM dealers and what will happen to the 51 existing Hummer dealers in North America.
A prototype of the Hummer H2 was unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It is based on GM's full-sized truck platform. Annual sales of the H2 are expected to be about 40,000 compared with the Hummer H1's approximately 1,000 sales annually.