Thursday, June 04, 2009
There is something that is just not right about the idea of GM's beleaguered Hummer brand being bought by a Chinese company. Of course, it looks like thousands of American jobs will be saved in the process and the sale will help the giant U.S. automaker "reinvent" itself, but it seems like a big step backward for the fastest growing economy in the world.
As longtime readers know, this blog had something of an obsession with the giant SUVs back at the peak of the housing boom as chronicled in the late-2005 Hummer Overfloweth and others have expressed even more extreme views about what the brand really represents.
So, it's not surprising that many others are scratching their head about the whole "Hummer goes to China" story and the sudden appearance on the world stage of Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, the soon-to-be new owner.
This report in Time doesn't seem to answer many questions:
Analysts say the brand's future lies in either slimmed-down SUVs or large special-purpose vehicles not unlike the military-troop carriers that formed Hummer's roots.The LA Times has no better insight into the purchase:
In the first public statement from Hummer's Chinese bidder, Yang Yi, CEO of Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, said his company "will be investing in the Hummer brand and its research and development capabilities, which will allow Hummer to better meet demand for new products such as more fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S."
The new owners are planning to push sales of the gargantuan vehicle here, where it is already a status symbol for China's newly rich.The idea of China becoming the next global super-power has somehow changed in a very fundamental way - and not for the better.
The brand "is synonymous with adventure, freedom and exhilaration, and we plan to continue that heritage," said Yang Yi, chief executive of Tengzhong.
But for others, the Hummer is a bad omen, the epitome of American excess before soaring gas prices and the housing collapse humbled the nation's psyche. As with H1N1 flu, they hope it isn't catching.
"To me, the car makes me think about the generation born in the 1980s that only believes in hedonism and shows us the bad consequences of consumerism," said Zhou Xiao Zheng, a sociologist at Beijing's Renmin University. "I dearly wish we only adopted the good things from the U.S. and not the bad things."
It's too late for that.