Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Bikes Bully Hummer: The News from Amherst, Massachusetts
GM Buys Hummer. Several years ago, in a visit to Amherst at the University of Massachusetts, former General Motors chairman Jack Smith told a public gathering how the Hummer became a satrapy of GM. In the late 1990s, Smith and his wife were vacationing on the Cape. Both took a fancy to the vehicles, impressed by their successful navigation of the Cape’s variegated terrain. When Smith saw an opportunity to buy the Hummer from AM General in 1998, he and General Motors pounced. They scarfed up the brand name and marketing rights to the military’s Hummer H1 and to the civilian Hummer H2 and H3. Unfortunately for GM, the Hummer soon became a public relations albatross—a brand that exemplified the ultimate in conspicuous, wasteful carbon consumption in a new era of greater fuel efficiency and hybrid automobiles (not to mention GM’s just-released Chevy Volt).
Life after Death. For some, the lumbering vehicle also became a trope for GMC’s own supersize and lack of agility. Long after Smith’s retirement, when General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009, the Hummer Division became an unwelcome asset. From then through February 2010, the Hummer’s principal suitor was the Shanghai automaker, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Machinery, which ultimately got cold feet. That’s when General Motors began winding down Hummer’s operations. The final Hummer rolled off the assembly line in Shreveport, Louisiana in May. But as the Amherst imbroglio suggests, there may yet be a spirited afterlife for the deceased. In towns like Amherst and maybe even the history books, the Hummer may well live on as a touchstone of carbon profligacy and waste.
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