The Killing Of A Brand
With all the hoopla going on in politics and rescue loans, we all still hope for the best. At least most of us do. A few vocal, uninformed dimwits are like a dog with a bone and just can't shake off the last little bits of glee and let it be. I'm talking about the potential killing off of the Hummer brand. GM has offered up the Hummer brand for sale, and although suitors are in negotiations, as of this writing no sale has been confirmed. That's a travesty. Hummers are fine 4x4 vehicles. By the time you read this, we hope that some forward-thinking company has taken advantage of the deal or that GM has realized what a gem of a brand it's losing and will decide to keep it.
So what might have been the downfall of the Hummer brand? I believe it was distorted perception from both sides of the equation. Those who love them believe they are the best 4x4s ever. Sorry, they aren't. But they are incredible machines. All of the prerequisites for an awesome off-road machine are there: approach and departure angles; 33-inch tires; great travel; engines available for torque, power, or economy; selectable lockers front and rear; 4:1 transfer-case ratio; steel bumpers; and real recovery points. And the list goes on.
Drawbacks include poor visibility from ridiculously small windows for design's sake and a high purchase price. Couple that with uninformed automotive and lifestyle writers who think of Hummers as gussied-up Tahoes or Colorados, and no wonder they got an undeserved bad reputation.
On the trail, comments are usually denigrating. Many think the owners of such rigs are poseurs. In Hollywood, people either give us looks of admiration or yell at us for being earth-haters driving a gas-guzzler. Now where did the public get that perception? It's flat-out wrong. The H2s aren't mileage-rated because they are in the same category as a 3/4-or 1-ton truck due to the same beefy components and weight, and they get similar mileage. But nobody screams at me when I drive one of those trucks. The H3 gets about the same mileage as a comparable 4x4 or even a Range Rover, and those don't get eggs thrown at them (yes, it has happened to our H2). The five-cylinder five-speed H3T pickup won the mileage category in our 2009 4x4 of the Year test. In fact, I've been testing another H3T, and I get 17-18 mpg on the open road and 15 in town or towing. That's not an earth-killer; that's a damn good 4x4.
All in all, it's a pretty sad state of affairs when such a brand is left to whither and die on the vine, especially when it has heritage and capability. We hope that someone can buy the brand and improve both the vehicle and the perception of it, because if Hummer goes, other strong, profitable, global niche brands that have had many owners throughout their history will have a target on their forehead as well-and that's not good for us as wheelers.