Sunday, February 28, 2010
Lost in last week's news amid a bevy of horrid economic reports, heightened tension in the health care debate, and Congressional hearings on Toyota's acceleration problems, one overlooked story seems worthy of note this weekend - the demise of the Hummer.
With GM's sale of the Hummer line of gargantuan SUVs to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery now scuttled, what served as a cultural icon during the middle of the last decade will now be relegated to history's scrapheap. It is the final footnote to an era a half-decade ago when the U.S. housing bubble was at its maximum point of inflation and, not only would banks let you borrow money for virtually anything, but the government provided incentives for small businesses to purchase these monstrous vehicles.
It comes at a time of profound change for this country and there is more than a little irony in the Hummer being cast adrift in the same year that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet the same fate, eight years after both were embraced back in 2002 as noted in this report in today's Washington Post.
General Motors' decision last week to shut down its Hummer brand is not merely one more sour note in a car-industry chorus of bailouts and bad brakes. It also appears to be the final chapter of a star-crossed love story, an American marriage of one man and one machine that couldn't endure because of a hard truth: Even the biggest things don't stay big forever.The little-known history of the street-legal H3 is detailed in this fine story, then the phoenix like rise of both the Gubernator and the H2 are chronicled.
The man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was responsible for bringing the machine, Hummer, to prominence.
It's well worth reading in its entirety, below are a few choice expcerpts:
In the beginning, the marriage of Hummer and Schwarzenegger was based on love, with mutual benefits. The star's fandom helped the big new vehicle gain attention, and the vehicle's popularity demonstrated the value of Schwarzenegger's judgment. Schwarzenegger and Hummer extended their brands together.Of course, there is some Hummer history around this blog also as an oversupply of these SUVs was the most popular item ever to spring forth from my keyboard in the now four-and-a-half year old epic - Hummer Overfloweth.
Schwarzenegger won the California governorship and Hummer sales grew rapidly, from about 20,000 in 2002 to more than 71,000 globally in 2006. But the pressures of political life strained the marriage.
With gas prices soaring, global sales for all Hummer models slumped to 66,261 in 2007 and 37,573 in 2008. GM tried last year to sell the brand to a Chinese company. After the deal fell through, GM announced last week that it was killing the brand, barring an outside bid to buy it. Schwarzenegger, for his part, said through a spokesman last week that he "believes the Hummer is a great vehicle that needs to be reintroduced with a more green engine like electric or bio-diesel."
Schwarzenegger may need his own makeover. Just as Hummer lost its identity as its makers sought mainstream appeal, the governor became more political moderate than muscular star, a man of compromise in a time of partisan war. However responsible such a stance may be, there is a cost to giving up your horsepower. No one knows exactly what you stand for.
In polls in recent months, majorities of Californians see Schwarzenegger as weak and ineffective. It's unclear what, if any, political future he may have.
He will be forced from office by term limits at the end of this year, just as the last Hummers are being sold.
Scroll to the bottom of that post and you'll see dozens of links and, to this day, people still leave comments.
For old times sake, here's the most famous picture, which, a year or so later turned up on Venezuealan TV as recounted here.
And, before leaving this subject, probably for good, a few more pics: