It was a big occasion, the grand opening of John Bergstrom's Hummer dealership in July 2002. The store in Neenah, Wis., about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay, was one of the first Hummer dealerships to adopt General Motors' in-your-face design plan.
GM flew in a planeload of journalists, and even CEO Rick Wagoner showed up. But six years later, with Hummer sales shrinking, Bergstrom's showcase dealership is getting an overhaul.
The store has an off-road course, a large curved steel corrugated roof that mimics the style of World War II Quonset huts, and a large steel "H" in the facade that doubles as the doorway.
Now the roof is coming off, and slow-selling H3s have been rolled out of the store and into a corner of Bergstrom's Chevrolet showroom next door. He will turn the Hummer building into a no-frills used-car outlet. The conversion to a GM Certified Used Vehicle store will be completed by October.
Some dealers spent as much as $6 million to build their Hummer Taj Mahals. Now the stores are looking more like white elephants. GM says it is considering all options for the struggling brand — including selling it.
Said Bergstrom: "The market is changing, and we're changing with it."