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Hummer hope for Australia

Humdinger!: The H3 is the best prospect of the Hummer range for coming to Australia.

General Motors evaluates Australia as a potential market for Hummer

9 Nov 2004

THAT very American symbol of automotive excess, the Hummer, could be on its way to Australia.

General Motors global car czar Bob Lutz sees an international future for the go anywhere four-wheel drive truck that first made its name as the military Humvee.

And Australia is one of the markets where Mr Lutz sees the Hummer having an opportunity, particularly as the range downsizes from H1, through H2 to the forthcoming ‘compact’ sized H3.

Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney said: “Bob (Lutz) and I have talked about it a couple of times and he is playing around with the idea of Hummer being more of a global brand.” "Bob feels that in certain markets Hummer might be a natural, and I think in his mind the Australian market could be a natural for an outback kind of vehicle, a more rugged kind of vehicle. That kind of image." Mr Lutz’s desire to spread Hummer could also reflect lowering sales in the US where rising fuel prices have had a big impact on sales. The H1 is down 65 per cent year-on-year and the H2 27 per cent.

Judging by Mr Mooney’s comments, there seems no urgency in bringing the rugged vehicles here.

"We’ve got enough on our platter at the moment frankly. Bob has bugged me about it more than I have thought about it," he said.

The original H1 does not appear to be under consideration, such is its bulk, while the H2 - the vehicle launched by actor and now governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger - is not available in right-hand drive.

59 center image The H3, previewed by the H3T concept shown at the Los Angeles auto show last January – and shown at the recent California motor show - would appear to be the best prospect.

"In the case of the possible smaller version, the H3, the architecture could enable right-hand drive," Mr Mooney said.

"But the GMT800 truck, which is the current full-size truck which is what the H2 comes off, is not right-hand capable today.

"I would like it to be right-hand capable because there is other products like the Suburban that come off that same architecture. It’s the same architecture as the Tahoe, the Yukon, the Denali, the Silverado pick-up trucks." The H1 is a very much old school military-derived Hummer. It is powered by a 6.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 engine that produces 152kW and 597Nm, hauling a kerb weight of 3428kg. It comes as a wagon or open top.

The H2 is the first of the new generation GM inspired vehicles. It is powered by a 6.0-litre Vortec V8 petrol engine that produces 242kW and 495Nm, with a kerb weight of 2909kg. It is sold as either a wagon or the new-for-2005 SUT, which has a small utility tray at the back. The H2 averages about 20L/100km.

"You go look at the H2 and go and look at the upscale versions, those are clearly not made to go out in the bush and beat the heck out of them," said Mr Mooney.

"But they will go anywhere. They will go across the Rubicon Trail in the States, they have that off-road capability and ramp angles that mean you can take if just about anywhere." In the US, a new hydrogen powered H2 SUT called the H2H has just been announced. An experimental vehicle, it will be shared between GM and - funnily enough - the office of the governor of California.

Also showcased in California last week was the new 2006 H1 Alpha, a new and more powerful version of the original Hummer that comes to dealerships in January featuring a Duramax diesel engine.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

SURREAL! Here I am driving down a winding mountain road in southern France in a Hummer H2 SUT. That’s weird enough. But who should come roaring up behind in a 911 cabrio than former word F1 champion Mika Hakkinen.

God knows what the phlegmatic Finn made of the gigantic yellow machine that blocked out everything except the sun, but it certainly has given me stories to dine out on for years.

‘The day I diced with Mika’ etcetera. And I can honestly say he couldn’t figure out how to pass me! That’s what the Hummer is all about, amazing experiences that leave you in shock, gob-smacked by the excesses that General Motors still indulges in.


Crank her into life and there’s a rumble from under the bonnet like a dinosaur on antacid tablets

What a massive contradiction the world’s biggest vehicle seller can be. On your left is Cadillac - smart, modern, efficient, stylish. On your right is Hummer - overweight, over-bearing, over-wrought and over here.

This is caveman retro. I needed a ladder to get into the drivers’ seat. The cabin felt like a brick outhouse and the interior appointments were old-style GM luxury, which is no great recommendation.

Crank her into life and there’s a rumble from under the bonnet like a dinosaur on antacid tablets, grasp the chunky industrial gear lever, take eight attempts to get out of the car park, and you’re on the move.

The amount of drivetrain and tyre noise is overwhelming, unlike the porcine acceleration. The lightness of the steering at low speed is completely at odds with the sheer bulk around you. But you get vague and sloppy at any speed.

There’s lots of tyre and bodyroll on those big 315/70 all-terrain tyres and such is the width of the body at more than 2.0 metres, it is difficult to keep all four wheels on narrow French roads at the same time.

Passing oncoming vehicles in such places is a wing and a prayer exercise. If there is one saving grace, it is that it is that at 5.17 metres it is not super-long. Just long.

Passers-by effected in equal measures amusement, nonchalance and disgust at the Hummer. It’s hard not to be embarrassed driving it. Only those with thick hides and massive egos need apply.

If there is a positive, it is the sheer feeling of strength. Maybe Bob Lutz is right, maybe there is a market for it in the outback.

But I can’t imagine the Hummer being able to do anything a Toyota LandCruiser can’t. Good luck with this one Bob.

The Road to Recovery podcast series


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