The steepest hills and deepest mud couldnt stop the mighty Hummer. But $4-a-gallon gasoline and tougher fuel economy standards might.
General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said today that all options are being considered for Hummer.
GM is considering:
Rebuilding Hummer with a lineup of smaller vehicles, such as the Jeep Wrangler-sized HX concept.
Equipping Hummer SUVs with fuel-saving diesel engines and possibly hybrid powertrains.
Selling the brand to another automaker.
GM spokeswoman Joanne Krell said the Hummer brands strategic review starts today. She said that GM will move quickly to decide Hummers future, that the automaker is not leaning in any particular direction and that no time frame has been set for a final decision.
Great global brand
We have to say, if we look at this from every conceivable way that is reasonable, what would we come back with? she said. We know Hummer is a great global brand that has a lot of potential, but could that be maximized elsewhere? Thats why we would think about a sale.
Hummer U.S. sales peaked in 2006 at 71,524 units but were off 21 percent to 55,986 last year. Through April, GM sold 12,243 units in the United States.
In 2000, GM licensed the right to use the Hummer name from AM General, the maker of the original Humvee military vehicle, and steadily added models during the SUV boom years. Since 2000, GM has sold about 275,000 Hummers in the United States.
But Krell said today that Hummers product plans are on hold. She said GM will produce a vehicle it already announced -- the H3T, a mid-sized pickup truck due this summer. But beyond that, it is unclear whether GM will follow through with using its new 4.5-liter diesel engine in the H2.
Dealer expected the news
The news didnt surprise David Butler, general manager of Suburban Hummer north of Detroit. He would not be surprised to see GM sell or close the brand.
I have been expecting that. With the continued high price of gasoline, it became more and more evident that trucks and large SUVs were going to be decreasing in penetration, Butler told Automotive News. The Hummer brand is perceived as large trucks and as being not very fuel-efficient.
I think it is GMs view long term that gas prices arent going to come down to where they were and that Hummer is not going to work in their current position.
Butler said he thinks GM will fairly compensate Hummer dealers if the brand goes out of production. GM required Hummer dealers to build stand-alone stores. Many dealers spent $1.5 million to $6 million to build the World War II Quonset-hut-style dealerships.
Said Butler: We went through the Oldsmobile termination. That was not a pleasant experience. But GM tries to do whats right for dealers, and I feel they would be fair.