DETROIT -- Dealer Joe Serra lost more than 1,000 customers a year when General Motors phased out Hummer about five years ago.
Some of them returned -- but only after Serra added a Jeep franchise, one brand that seems to offer the sort of capability and cachet that meets erstwhile Hummer customers' tastes.
"Thank God I was able to acquire Jeep and retain some of those Hummer people," says Serra, owner of Serra Automotive Inc., which has 34 dealerships in seven states and sold 1,462 Hummers from its Grand Blanc, Mich., store in 2006. "Jeep has it going on right now. It's like they've got that niche all to themselves."
Booming sales of pricey SUVs, tame gasoline prices and the torrid growth of Jeep have left some former Hummer dealers and brand loyalists to wonder what might have been. It also has rekindled chatter about whether GM should take another run at a Jeep Wrangler fighter.
GMC chief Duncan Aldred stirred the pot anew recently, telling Edmunds.com that an "active all-road, Wrangler-esque type of vehicle" could be a possibility for GMC's lineup.
IHS Automotive senior analyst Tom Libby thinks such an entry would have a ready-made audience.
"There is space in the marketplace for this combination of off-road capability and patriotism now occupied only by one brand: Jeep," Libby says. "GM ceded that space when Hummer went away."