In-Depth: General Motors Designing HUMMER-Like Vehicle In GMC Design Studio


Back in 2010 officials at General Motors said that releasing HUMMER models under the GMC badge was “discussed,” but that no plans existed to release any such vehicles “anytime soon.” Fast-forward four years and GMC designers are telling folks at The Car Guide that a vehicle following in HUMMER’s footsteps is currently being worked on.

According to the designer, it wouldn’t just be a re-badged Terrain with skid plates, but a brand-new design that would be in the same category with the Jeep Wrangler.

There are several reasons why this would make sense:

1) GM originally considered releasing HUMMERs under the GMC Nameplate
2) The HUMMER H4/HX Concept debuted to huge fanfare
3) HUMMER’s lead Designer is now a Manager in the GMC Design Studio
4) GM confirms at least one GMC product in development will be unique to the brand
5) GM confirms the GMC design studio is only working on trucks
6) GM still owns all the HUMMER designs


General Motors gave serious consideration to launching HUMMER vehicles under the GMC badge in the beginning, with names like the “Moab.” GM ultimately decided that HUMMER would be positioned as a premium brand, and that GMC dealers wouldn’t be able to sufficiently provide a premium experience. Thus, HUMMER got its own brand, dealers, marketing, etc.

The idea of marketing off-road vehicles through GMC dealers isn’t a new one.

The Popular HX Concept (HUMMER H4)

The HX Concept, what would have eventually been released as the H4, was a victim of poor timing. HUMMER brand image was tanking and GM was about to go bankrupt; there was no way the H4 would make it out alive during that.

That’s not to say people didn’t love it. You had H1, H2, H3, and plenty of non-HUMMER owners giving praise to the design that was modern, tough, attractive, capable, and still distinctively HUMMER – just in a smaller package.

Because of it’s smaller size, and that it was designed when GM knew tougher regulations on fuel economy were coming, it is already that much further along than any other HUMMER models.

HUMMER’s lead designer, Carl Zipfel, now works in the GMC Design Studio

Carl Zipfel lead the HUMMER design team from 2004 to 2010, and was ultimately responsible for the look and feel of vehicles like the H3T, the HX Concept, and the next-generation H2 (which we never got to see).

Zipfel is an avid adventurist who turned his backyard into an “extreme off-road playground” that he and his kids race use to race dirt-bikes. “For us, it’s really a family lifestyle thing…living the dream with the track out back.”

Here is what he had to say about positioning the H4/HX against the Jeep Wrangler:

“I think a lot of people have been tagging it as the ‘wrangler beater’ because of the size, but to be honest, we’ve always seen ourselves as a little more premium and a notch above the Jeep brand – it’s just our philosophy and how we fit within GM. This will certainly be compared against Wrangler, but we were never worried about being one degree better in an area than the wrangler…this has a 56 degree approach angle on the front, 51 on the rear – it’s in between better than H2 and almost as good as H1. So off-road capability-wise, you’d have to modify a wrangler quite a bit to get to those kind of numbers. We went after those numbers…all based on our own internal feelings about where a vehicle this size should be in terms its off-road capability – not really worrying too much about the other guys.”

You can take Zipfel out of the HUMMER brand, but you can’t expect him not to push the design studio at GMC to come up with an off-road vehicle that isn’t a re-branded Chevy of some sort.

GM Says GMC Design Studio Working on a Unique Vehicle

In January, GM global product chief Mark Reuss told Automotive News that GMC would design and launch a vehicle that didn’t share major architecture with a Chevy model. A stand-alone vehicle in the GMC line would be a “departure from GM’s platform-sharing strategy.”

GM confirms the GMC design studio is only working on trucks

Director of GM Global Design Ed Welburn told Automotive News in January that the GMC design studio is “as busy as it’s ever been,” and said that included work on concept vehicles but all of the products in development are trucks.

GM Still Owns HUMMER

While vehicle production and design may have ceased years ago, General Motors still owns everything HUMMER. The name, the brand, and most important to today’s conversation: the vehicle designs.

HummerGuy’s take

It’s exciting news that General Motors may in some way be reviving the HUMMER spirit, even if it’s not HUMMER in name. There is certainly a market for a Jeep Wrangler competitor, and I hope Zipfel and the GMC design team are saying, “why can’t it be us?”

We’ve seen the concept vehicles, we’ve liked the concept vehicles, and there’s no reason to leave great ideas or design concepts on the table.

While we wouldn’t expect GMC to merely smack a GMC badge on the front of the HX concept, we do suspect that a new off-road capable vehicle competing with Jeep Wrangler would be somewhat similar. i.e. it won’t be a large vehicle like those in the previous HUMMER lineup. Those vehicles needed major architecture re-hauls in order to pass new fuel economy standards.

Price estimates were in the mid 20s for the H4, but remember that was a HUMMER model – which meant it needed ‘luxury’ features. If it is a GMC model focused on off-road capability, the interior would be nice but the brand doesn’t require ‘luxury’ be part of the build. Price would be anyone’s guess, but we wouldn’t expect it would be anywhere less than $25,000.

We’ll leave you with a quote from Zipfel from when the HUMMER brand was up in the air:

“When off road and you get hung up or stuck you don’t just get out and walk away. That is why we won’t do that now with our brand…. We are not dead, might just need a winch and a buddy. Keep the faith.”

The Car Guide

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  1. Love it bring it on

  2. Igor Ivanovich Polcheski III

    GM Blows. GM bought the Hummer name from AM General, and then proceeded to run the Hummer brand into the ground. Then they took a payout from Uncle Sam, and they are STILL in the red!

    The so-called “hummers” that GM produced were an insult to the Hummer name.

    I think they should bow their heads in shame and give AM General the Hummer name back. After all, AMG is the producer of the REAL Hummer.