Even though General Motors announced that all options are on the table with HUMMER, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of speculation on a single option: selling the entire HUMMER brand. We’re guilty of it too. After all, our first story after the initial announcement was about two Indian companies, Tata and Mahindra, who had supposedly been approached to purchase HUMMER. But there’s one huge option that everyone seems to be ignoring: a complete overhaul of the brand and its vehicle lineup.
GM and HUMMER are in a bit of pickle. Some brand loyalists will never be happy with any sort of change – they are the HUMMER H1 owners that were upset when the H2 came out and “watered down the brand,” and the H2 customers that were upset when the H3 came out and “watered down the brand.” On the other hand, if HUMMER doesn’t change and come out with smaller models, the brand will continue to have diminishing returns amid high gas prices and tough economic times. The skyrocketing price of oil over the last few months has put the whole equation in fast-forward, which is why HUMMER needs to either commit to drastic change and follow-through, or sell the brand to someone who can.
Four months ago while at the Chicago Auto Show, standing next to the HUMMER HX concept, I asked one of the lead designers, “So the HX is next…what’s after that?” While there were no specific answers, he did say that there are a number of people on his team that are almost exclusively devoted to creating new ideas for HUMMER. He also added that the next concept may be “really surprising – you may look at it and say, wow, that’s a HUMMER?” I was a little concerned with that statement, so I clarified that I’d be saying that in a GOOD way. He confirmed. I also asked if it would still be a great off-road vehicle to which he said, “It’s still a HUMMER.” That conversation has become even more poignant in light of recent events.
The HUMMER design team really has the future of the brand in their hands, and the products they present will soon go to the top dogs at General Motors for consideration. At that point, they will decide if the changes are drastic enough to widen HUMMER’s appeal, while at the same time, not diluting the brand the way Jeep has done with the Liberty and Cherokee. That’s a tall order for the HUMMER team in Michigan.
One might ask, “if they were able to do that, wouldn’t they have done it by now?” That’s a good question, and also probably the reason why all options are still on the table.