Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GM axes dumbest division.

Once upon a time, the U.S. military needed to replace the Jeep. So it spent a brazillion dollars and came up with seriously capable off-road truck with the nickname-unfriendly acronymical sobriquet "HMMWV" made by AM General here in Indiana.

When compared to normal passenger vehicles, it was huge. Nearly a lane wide, with enough ground clearance to practically straddle a fireplug without dinging the oil pan, the HMMWV's mechanicals were shoved up into the truck to protect them from landmines, which resulted in a hood so high you needed Sherpas and oxygen to check the dipstick and a transmission tunnel that made a chat with your passenger a long-distance call.

Not only that, but it was positively agricultural in performance on pavement; it could be out-drag-raced by any minivan and its top speed necessitated drafting UPS trucks on the freeway to keep from getting rear-ended by diesel Rabbits.

It was terrifically butch-looking, however, and once Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up on the street with one, every Walter Mitty on God's green earth wanted one, too. At least until they found out what they were like up close. See, being a fairly specialized vehicle designed for the government, the price was nosebleed steep for 1992, and most folks willing to dump over fifty G's on a vehicle didn't want a slow one with an interior that could be cleaned out with a hose. Sales were, needless to say, as lethargic as the vehicle's highway performance.

General Motors bought the name "Hummer" from AM General in 1998 and decided to cash in on the popularity of the real military HMMWV by offering a more profitable vehicle. They took their existing pickup/SUV chassis and dropped a HMMWV-esque bodyshell on it and took the Walter Mitty market by storm with the new "Hummer H2" which was, essentially, a Chevy Suburban with a codpiece.

With the H2 selling well, GM slapped a chest toupee on their compact pickup and started selling it as the Hummer H3 and discontinued civilian sales of the actual HMMWV, which had been saddled with the moniker "Hummer H1".

This all occurred, of course, just in time for the price of gas to double and then, after a few more years, the economy to crater. Suddenly nobody wanted really big SUV's that cost a bajillion dollars, and that was bad news for a one-trick pony of a division like Hummer. Plus the government, which has just pumped oceans of money into GM, is threatening to raise the average fuel-economy requirement and mandate production of cars powered by moonbeams and unicorn farts, and when you take the king's shilling, you gotta dance to the king's tune. So it's adios Hummer; second baby out of the GM sleigh...

31 comments:

Jay G said...

Technically it's the third - GM killed Oldsmobile a few years back, and Pontiac just got the axe a short while ago.

Good summation of the Hummer line, BTW.

("Suburban with a codpiece" - LMAO)

Anonymous said...

Third?

GM has been killing brands since forever, but it's nice to see some be taken off life support and allowed to slip peacefully away though.

Like most thing with GM in my lifetime, " it's about #$%^$%^ time " basically sums up my feelings about their management (Chrysler too).

It's easy to be a rear seat driver, but for the love of god those companies have been lethargic in "doing stuff". I was just saying to a friend the other day after existing a dealership after having kicked some tires: "Ok cars, 15-25 years too late."

Bram said...

You nailed it. I loved driving my MK138 - special communications Humvee off-road. I could climb near vertical sand dunes with the thing. On-road, it was the worst car/truck I ever drove.

Tam said...

FWIW, according to the search engine, I have used the word "codpiece" three times on this blog, each time referring to the Hummer H2 and not once to Chris O'Donnell's Robin costume.

Don Meaker said...

Hurrumph. Some of us need the extra room of a codpiece.

To me the big pity is that they never offered a diesel engine, like the military vehicle it aped.

Tam said...

Yeah, and they dropped it from the Suburban after '99...

(Of course, I thought folks who bought H2's instead of Suburbans were being a little silly.)

Rustmeister said...

I don't know if someone had fiddled with the governors in our Hummers, but the ones we had in Greece would move out quickly.

These were new ones, delivered in the mid/late '80's.

Imagine a bunch of crazy GI's driving Hummers through downtown Athens in vehicles no one had ever seen before.

Oh, and we were in civilian clothes. We weren't allowed to be off base in uniform. OPSEC, ya know. ;-)

Tam said...

You don't need much of a governor in a 5200lb vehicle with a 130hp engine. Although with that gearing, they'll just about hop over a beer can from a standing start if you don't mind maybe doing bad things to the driveline.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

Anyone who can use the word Sherpa correctly has a good handle on a lot of other things.

Most of the Hummers I know of are driven by truckers-more accurately, the people who own trucking companies, said vehicles being beyond the financial reach of mere employees.

Same love of chrome and glitter that makes 'em dress up those big 18-wheelers.

One is owned by a diminutive lady who as a 6 year-old learned to drive a tractor on her parents' farm. What you'd call a "truck drivin' mama".

One more anachronism I'll be sad, in a way, to see disappear.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully someone will buy it and acutally make Humvees. Real, tough, off road capable, production, Amuricun made iron. And, yes, the diesel too. The gang I hunt coyotes with always thought one would be perfect. No worrys about driving across snow-covered wash outs in fields etc.

Tam said...

"Hopefully someone will buy it and acutally make Humvees."

Well, there's the problem, see?

GM doesn't make HMMWV's, AM General does.

GM just bought the rights to sell HMMWV's on the civilian market through their synthetic "Hummer" division. They did sell real HMMWV's as the "Hummer H1" but nobody bought them...

perlhaqr said...

I wouldn't mind a real HMMWV. It really annoys me that the fedgov insists on mangling them (much like it was going to do with the milsurp brass a while back) before selling them.

Stupid motherfuckers, I already paid for that thing once! I'm willing to do so again to have a big, scary, evil looking spartan truck. But no, they have to reduce the value of the thing to simple steel by weight prices instead.

A nice bit of fooling with the injection pump and the turbo wastegate, and those 6.5 diesels will make some noise. :D (Not as good as a cummins, of course, but you get what you pay for.)

Rob K said...

Nobody bought the H1 because they didn't want it for what it was designed for. Hummer was the zenith of 4x4s bought by people who never drove off pavement and wouldn't know the difference between the use of 4 low and 4 hi. Conspicuous consumption writ large. Jeeps are about as bad.

I always wanted a real HMMWV, and hope to pick up a used one someday, since a new one is unlikely to ever be in the budget. I know a river that needs to be driven through... :)

D.W. Drang said...

The HMMWV is a piece of shit. Whoever designed it hates soldiers. Probably a deep cover agent for the KGB, or maybe Democratic Underground. it's as big a maintenance nightmare as the Gamma Goat. You have to tighten the half shaft bolts daily. EVERY. DAMNED. DAY. Or your half shafts fall off.

Tam said...

Yeah, the one guy I knew personally with an H1 was not the sharpest tool in the shed:

"I bought a Hummer! Come on out to the parking lot and look!"

"You drove it to work?"

"Sure. I had to trade the Range Rover in on it."

"Dude, it's your daily driver?"

"Yeah, so?"

"But your everyday commute is fifty+ miles round trip on the interstate! Why not just pay someone to yel in your ears and punch you in the kidneys repeatedly for three hours a day? It'd be cheaper..."

Tony said...

..."and came up with seriously capable off-road truck...""When compared to normal passenger vehicles..."You know, I was going to try and come up with a witty comment or something, but do I really need to say anything at this point? :P

And damn I still want an H1/HMMWV. Actually, two of them - my girlfriend wants a pink one. With glitter. And Hello Kitty decals. So yeah, two Hummers would be nice.

(By the by, what's this about fedgov mangling HMMWV's before selling them? How badly/unrepairably are they mangled? 'Cause a real military issue HMMWV would of course be the neatest one to own... :) )

Rabbit said...

Hummer.

Making surplus gray-market Pinzgauers and UNIMOGS look reasonable and practical since 1998.

I have considered selling my decrepit VW Type2 Westfalia and finding a Volvo C202/303, in all reality. At least it has a heater, and the gas mileage is no worse.

Regards,
Rabbit.

wv=worse. Prophetic, huh?

Hunter said...

And what was one of the news leads this A.M.? A Chinese company wants to buy the brand so that they can get into car manufacturing.
Yeah, I would have bought one with a diesel. Then turned it into something like the desert SAS pink panthers.

the pawnbroker said...

so the chinese outfit will buy the company, but govmotors will continue to build it, thereby "saving" 3k jobs...

another step toward the wpa; workers party of (little a) america. man, we better start boning up on our mandarin.

jtc

Zendo Deb said...

The really interesting thing - or sad thing maybe, depending on your POV - while GM was spending billions on the Hummer, Toyota was spending about the same amount of money developing the hybrid motor in the Prius.

I know you HP junkies don't like the prius (I like plug-in hybrids better) but it has been clear - to anyone paying attention - for 10 years that the price of oil is going to go up. We aren't out of oil exactly, but we are burning it at nearly the rate we are able to pump it out of the ground. Burn a little more, and someone has to do without.

On the subject of horsepower... Americans need to get over it. When the Accura was introduced it had a 98 horsepower engine. For a car that spends most of its life stuck in rush-hour traffic that is all you need. This year it clocks in at 180. The Taurus is up to 205 if you buy the big engine.

4 dollar gas? Someday you will think that was "the good ole days."

Jayson said...

zendo deb, that's horseshit.

get rid of oil-burning power plants, and that frees up a LOT of oil.

And the whole "you don't need all that horsepower" flies about as well as "you don't need an assault rifle for hunting/self-defense"

CastoCreations said...

"...a Chevy Suburban with a codpiece" *gigglesnort* That is poetry.

Tony said...

You know, building more oil refineries would help with the oil consumption rate...

Oh, and I don't know if I were included in that "HP junkies", but personally I am more interested in things like low-end torque, ground clearance, suspension travel... :)

Ed Foster said...

If I was running offroad, the Hummer would be the only way to go. That Gleason diff is like nothing else in the world, and they really can climb over a wet bolder on the side of a jello mountain.

Commuting to work? O.K., a Norton 850 in nice weather and the Vue when it's less than optimal. The last one saved my sorry butt when I had to stop from 80 plus in zip inches.

reflectoscope said...

But I really, really wanted to spend, what, 80k on a shitty re-skinned GM SUV!

Good riddance, the H2 and H3 were collectively a farce anyway.

Jim

Joel said...

Silly-ass vehicles. I'd have driven an Aztek before I'd have been caught dead in a Hummer. Megabux or no, those things were everywhere in Socal when I lived there; all chromium and bright primary colors, guaranteed never, ever to have left the pavement lest the brazillion-dollar paint job be scratched...Sheesh.

Marja said...

Hm. Well, I've always wanted a Combat T98 more anyway... (http://www.armoringgroup.org/)

jimbob86 said...

"as lethargic as the vehicle's highway performance."

A little tinkering with the throttle linkage, max tire pressure..... and you could get them up to ..... well, the "C" on "Cross-Country/Trailer", which was faster than "Overspeed", but curiously below the "0" on the speedo-meter..... on the Autobahn (as tested on A-3 between Werthiem and Wuerzberg, JUN88)..... Off road, you could get them up small trees...... scaling of large trees by wheeled vehichles was a job for the HMMTT........

Crustyrusty said...

The look on an Air Force Colonel's face in the rear view when he saw a Humvee for the first time with 4 cops and an M-60 on top bearing down on his BMW... Priceless.

Yesterday Momma and I saw one of those grotesque Hummer things on the road, and we both looked at each other and I said, "We NEVER called them 'hummers'" and she said, "They're Humvees, dammit!"

I like her :)

Gewehr98 said...

Buying a used HMMWV at a government surplus auction is simply not an option one can bet on. All military-issue HMMWVs are currently being rebuilt by a company in Bangor, Maine. They're called the Maine Military Authority, and when HMMWVs get wrecked/blown up/worn out, they go there, and are given a frame-up rebuild, essentially zero-times, and resold to Uncle Sam.

Any military-configured HMMWVs one finds for sale on the commercial market these days are either prototypes, DRMO mistakes, re-imported from foreign governments, part of the 1999 Marine Corps auction, or STOLEN!

Those that are available have their frames strategically cut in several locations, per US DOT rules. DOT is the one who doesn't want sutplus military HMMWVs on public highways - take it up with them. (Having bruised my kidneys several times over in the damned things, I tend to agree...)

Alcibiades said...

I once saw one parked in the employees-only parking lot of a high school.

They pay teachers way too much in this state...