The Life and Times of the Hummer

2010 marks the last year the Hummer will be made by makers General Motors. While the product was to be sold by GM to Chinese auto maker Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company in 2009, the deal fell through by February 2010. At this point, GM decided to retire the brand.

What is the history of the Hummer? Hummers were originally built by AM General Corporation, a company formerly owned by AMC-Jeep’s General Products Division. The vehicles were created under a contract for the United States Armed Forces. The first model, the Hum-Vee, was built with a variety of military-based equipment. After the U.S. Military received their quota, they adapted some of the models into vehicles. At this point, AM General decided to sell a civilian version of the Hum-Vee.

Hum-Vee received its largest amount of publicity during Desert Storm. By 1992, the civilian version called the M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Hum-Vee) was released under the name Hummer.

By 1998, AM General sold the brand name to General Motors, who continued to manufacture the vehicles. GM quickly introduced two new models, the H2 and H3. AM General continued to build the H1 until it was discontinued in 2006. The H2 and H3 would be smaller versions, especially the H3, which was built in Shreveport, LA alongside the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. The H3 shares the GMT-355 platform with these vehicles.

The H1 was Hummer’s first car in the Hummer Range. It was built for its high mobility and multipurpose usage. The vehicle was originally designed for strict military usage and its massive four-wheel drive capacity. It boasted 16 inches of ground clearance as well as its super-aggressive approach and departure angles. The Humvee could climb over a 22-inch high obstacle and handle a 60 percent grade as well as wade through up to 30 inches of water. The H1 came with a convertible-like soft top, a four-door hard top pickup truck and a wagon body version. Lesser-known variants included a two-door pickup truck and a four-door slantback. The vehicle came with five engine types and three automatic transmission types.

The H2 was built as a large truck but slimmer than the H1. It was slightly longer and taller with room for six passengers. The rearmost part of the H2 was modified to a pickup truck bed for the 2005 H2 SUT. The H2 shares a platform with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The H2’s frame is made up of three sections – the front uses a modified GM 2500-Series utility frame, the mid-section is new and completely boxed and the rear section uses a modified GM 1500-Series frame which is upgraded for the 8,600 lb gross weight vehicle. The H2 comes with a 6.0 L V8 and a 6.2 L V8.

The H3 is the smallest of Hummer models and is available either as a traditional midsized SUV or a midsized pickup known as the H3T. The H3 was launched with a 3.5 liter straight-5 cylinder L52 engine that produced 220 hp and 225 ft.-lbf of torque. In 2007 the engine was replaced by a 3.7 liter LLR that produced 242 hp and 242 ft-lbf of torque. In 2009 this was revised to 239 hp and 241 ft-lbf.

Hummers were not only popular in America. By 2006, the Hummer began to expand through importers and distributors in 33 countries. The H3, built in South Africa for international markets were first built with left-hand drive but then right-hand drive versions were added for exports to Australia and other markets. Meanwhile the H2 was being assembled in Kaliningrad, Russia by Avtotor.

Despite it’s worldwide popularity, the brand would not hold up. During a shareholders meeting in June, 2008, GM’s CEO announced that the product either had to be sold or completely redesigned or discontinued. There was a decreasing demand for large SUV’s due to the higher prices of fuel. Several parties originally approached GM for the purchase of the Hummer brand but nothing went through. The problems Hummer suffered included size and fuel economy.

The H1 and H2 caused parking problems due to their size as well as problems fitting into standard sized garages. Their size also posed a threat to smaller vehicles. Ecologically, they also received a lot of criticism. The H2 was singled out and attacked as a symbol of ecological irresponsibility. Last, the Hummer had poor fuel economy. Compared to other heavy passenger vehicles, Hummers without the alternate Duramax V8 engine had terrible fuel economy. The H2 averages about 14 mpg on highways and 10 mpg in the city and has a curb weight of over 6,000 lbs.

In June 2009, GM announced it would file for bankruptcy and during this time, it revealed that the Hummer brand would be discontinued. On April 7, 2010, GM officially said was shutting down the Hummer SUV brand and offering rich rebates in a bid to move the remaining 2,200 vehicles.

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