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The Disturbing Reason Why Hummer Failed

The Hummer is not only an iconic brand, but it also has one of the most rollercoaster histories of all. Upon its launch to the general public in 1992, General Motors thought it had taken a page from the Jeep playbook in transitioning a military vehicle to attract the interest of the general U.S. population.

By the 2000s, the Hummer was hugely popular with its oversized design, status-injecting price tag, and celebrity ownership. But something happened to the Hummer that ultimately led to its demise despite the Hollywood fame. Not even Hummer owners like Britney Spears or Arnold Schwarzenegger could save the beefy ride from failing.

The popularity of the Hummer

People loved Hummers in the beginning. Not just because their favorite celebs were driving them, but the public embraced them because there had been nothing quite like the Hummer before. Tough, capable, and larger than life was a brand that spoke to the egos of many.

If you had the $100,000 to buy one of the ‘blinged-out’ Hummer varieties, you were a status symbol. GM hoped for such a popular launch, considering how well the Jeep portfolio had also been embraced by the public upon its military transition to civilian life. But, a lot has happened between the early 2000s and today. A few disturbing situations took down even the behemoth Hummer.

Activism led to disturbing disruptions in the Hummer brand

Hummer car is exhibited at the booth of National Exhibition and Convention Center ahead of the 17th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition
A Hummer | Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

One of the biggest publicity nightmares for the Hummer came at the hands of intense eco-friendly activists. Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) are two such organizations responsible for some pretty crazy acts against the Hummer brand.

The ELF press office released a statement that turned into a rallying cry against the SUV, which called the vehicle the “worst of American excess and wastefulness.” Some 20 Hummer H2 models were subsequently destroyed, as another 20 were damaged by vandals. With almost $2.5 million in vehicular damages, the “I (heart) pollution” graffiti caught national attention.

The war in Iraq

If the activists calling for a Hummer boycott and citing American consumption didn’t hurt GM bad enough, the war in Iraq and exploding gas prices sure did. In 2007, the American consumer was hammered with pocketbook-busting gas prices, forcing many to abandon their gas-guzzling SUV ways and look to economical and fuel-efficient alternatives. Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst for Global Insight, told Wired.com that people were downsizing. The monstrosity of an SUV as a lifestyle choice and personal statement, ‘is dead.’

One year later, General Motors experienced the recession of 2008. As many automakers struggled to stay profitable, GM fell to bankruptcy and government-sponsored bailouts. By 2010, the Hummer officially was terminated from production. Many wondered if it would ever see the light of day again, or if it would fade away into the timeline of historical icons.

The Hummer is making a comeback

General Motors is bringing back the Hummer and has taken steps to avoid some of the pitfalls of years past. You may have seen the LeBron James commercial during this year’s Super Bowl. The automaker is playing heavily to its strengths and introducing an all-electric version. It’s a brand that, despite its ten-year hiatus, is well-known. GM is trimming the unwanted fat and features for which past versions were most despised.

This ‘Super Truck’ is hoping to capitalize on everything the public loved about the hulky SUV by cutting out all those not-so-popular characteristics of yesteryear. This electric beauty is slated for launch in the 2022 model year and will offer three electric motors and 1,000 hp. Would you expect anything less?

The Hummer certainly came out big and faded into the sunset as consumer preferences changed over the years. Activism, war, and the economy all put nails in the Hummer coffin. But for you Humvee fans, it’s coming back and in a big way. And, we all love a good comeback story. General Motors is banking on it.