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Hummer H3 to spawn ute, V8, diesel versions

Precursor: GM's 2003 H3T utility concept preceded the H3's official release.

With help from GM, Hummer will expand with smaller vehicles and more engines

16 Apr 2007

HUMMER will consolidate its upcoming H3 range in Australia from 2009 with a variety of new models that will include a compact SUV, diesel, ethanol and hybrid power, and a new full-sized H2.

Central to this will be engineering and design input from General Motors’ global outposts, including Holden, but perhaps Hummer’s most ambitious plan involves a vehicle that sits below the H3 – currently the company’s smallest offering.

Known as the H4 – although this may change by the time it appears around 2010 – it will give the Hummer brand a vital weapon in the United States against premium-priced compact SUVs such as the Nissan Murano.

Hummer general manager Martin Walsh revealed that the H4 will be twinned with an upcoming compact General Motors platform, although he stopped short of saying which one it would be.

"It will be another GM platform that will allow us to build a smaller vehicle," he says.

John Heinricy, General Motors director of high performance vehicles, told GoAuto that GM’s engineering plants across the globe are intertwined in their new-model developments.

"At GM, we work together like it’s one engineering organisation, so I can tell you that on various programs – not particular with Hummer – I’m in conversation with Holden on a weekly basis," he revealed.

"We’re sharing knowledge, we’re sharing engineering. Holden does engineering for the US... it all fits together seamlessly."However, a Hummer insider admitted to fearing that its hard-won hardcore off-road image may be irreparably harmed if GM decides to go "soft" with the H4.

59 center imageHe insits that Hummer needs to maintain its 4WD reputation by ensuring that all its vehicles have a separate chassis, short overhangs, class-leading approach, breakover and departure angles, ample ground clearance and signature Hummer styling cues.

Mr Walsh also hinted at an even smaller model beyond the H4, if market trends – driven by spiralling fuel costs and increasingly punitive legislation against heavier SUVs – dictate a need for it.

"Our growth will be downwards in terms of size," Mr Walsh says, adding: "Opportunities will lie in smaller segments."Nevertheless, he cites Hummer’s "iconic design" and leading off-road ability as keys to its success.

"As we grow smaller, we must ensure that (Hummer) maintains these two characteristics," Mr Walsh emphasises.

"We have to offer legitimate off-road capability – that’s where the real challenge is."In the United States alone, Mr Walsh believes that a smaller vehicle line-up could add between 30,000 and 40,000 sales to the 70,000-odd units (split between 56,000 H3s and 14,000 H2s) Hummer shifted in 2006.

At the other end of the spectrum is the development of an H2 replacement.

Also due out by about the end of the decade, it will again be developed off GM’s full-sized 1500/2500/Suburban truck platform.

However, a greater emphasis on luxury, as well as right-hand drive engineering, should see the H2 II challenge vehicles such as the Range Rover Vogue and Lexus LX570 in markets outside North America.

However, this does not mean that Hummer will be standing still with the H3, the brand’s sole global ambassador for the time being.

As we reported last week, first up will be the long-awaited V8 version of the H3, to address this model’s single biggest criticism – its lack of performance punch.

Dubbed H3 Alpha and on sale in North America from June, right-hand drive production for the V8 will commence at General Motors’ plant in South Africa early next year, with Australian sales following by the end of 2008.

Around the same time, a diesel-powered H3 is in line for introduction, although exactly which engine it will employ remains a mystery.

The H3’s short nose precludes most V6 installations, so talk is rife that Hummer will fit a derivation of the 2.0-litre common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit found in the Holden Captiva.

Developed by VM Motori of Italy and produced by GM DAT in South Korea, a size increase to 2.2 or even 2.5 litres is a possibility.

Hummer is also looking at E85 ethanol versions of its two petrol engine choices, as well as a move to biodiesel technology.

In fact, within the next three years, Hummer will offer bio-fuel powertrains "...in every single vehicle application" according to one company spokesman.

Further into the future, hybrid technology – including a predominantly electric powerplant with occasional fossil-fuel engine back-up as per GM’s 2007 Detroit show-stealing Volt concept car – could find its way into Hummers.

An SUT (Sport Utility Truck) version of the H3 is on the cards, for a US launch in 2008.

This four-door crew-cab model, with may be joined later on by a two-door utility with an extended bed for greater commercial-vehicle applications.

Despite these developments, Mr Walsh believes that it is the smaller vehicles that will drive Hummer sales in Europe, the Middle East and Australasia, as the Americans drive into new markets and add more dealers in existing ones.

Currently Hummer sells only 12 per cent of its output outside of North America.

"Longer term I think we can get between 20 and 25 per cent," Mr Walsh forecasts.

He declared that the three biggest issues facing Hummer are incorrect perceptions of price, size and fuel economy.

The former initially affected H3 sales in America in its first year. Buyers incorrectly assumed it cost significantly more, simply because of its similar design to the larger and costlier H2.

Mr Walsh points out that buyers are surprised by the relative compactness of the H3, claiming that it has the same turning radius as a Toyota Camry sedan.

He adds fuel consumption is on par with most of its mid-sized SUV competitors.

Mr Martin also admits that distancing the Hummer from the old military HMMWV (and its civilian H1 counterpart) might aid the company in gaining greater social acceptance in some markets.

"There is still a high lack of awareness of what (today’s Hummer) truly is," Mr Walsh laments.

"We are going hard trying to change consumer’s perceptions."Responding to criticism that his vehicles are out of step with the fuel consumption and environmental concerns of today, Mr Walsh vehemently defends Hummer’s place in this world.

"Hummer is a niche vehicle. We feel we don’t have anything to apologise for.

"We respect the right of people not to choose a Hummer as much as we respect the right for people to choose our product... However, in our future product plans we are incorporating the move to bio fuels and even more fuel efficient options as well."

What's coming from Hummer:

H3 - July 2007
H3 SUT - 2008
H3 Alpha V8 - Q4 2008
H3 diesel - 2009
H4 - 2010
H2 MkII - 2011

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