Associated Press file photo
A Hummer limousine. (Either one is bad enough, a Hummer or a limousine, but some major asshole had to combine the two.) Hummer limousines were common in ancient Rome right before it fell.
General Motors no longer will produce the Hummer, for which it hasn’t been able to find a buyer, The Associated Press reports today. The AP notes:
The beefy, military-inspired SUV began as a macho icon for enthusiasts like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held photo ops in Hummers in his early days as governor.
For others it was a symbol of excess, environmental ruin and tackiness — a view that seemed to grow in direct proportion to gas prices and economic distress.
And now the brand is likely no more. General Motors Co. said [yesterday] its bid to sell Hummer to a Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer had collapsed. Government regulators in Beijing failed to approve the sale and GM said it would have no choice but to let the brand die, 18 years after its first and most enormous model started lumbering off the assembly line.
“Finally,” said Ann Mesnikoff, director of the green transportation campaign at the Sierra Club in Washington. “The Hummer was the epitome of gas guzzling.”
Schwarzenegger, who was instrumental in popularizing the vehicle, had a much different reaction two decades ago when he first saw the Hummer’s direct military ancestor. Then a body builder turned movie star, he was on his way to the set of “Kindergarten Cop” in Oregon when an Army convoy packed with Humvees thundered past.
“I put the brakes on,” Schwarzenegger said at the 1992 ceremony that AM General held to start production of civilian Hummers. “Someone smashed into the back of me, but I just stared. ‘Oh my God, there is the vehicle,’ I said. And from then on, I was possessed.”
Hummer’s earliest predecessor was the jeep, the boxy multipurpose vehicle built in large numbers for the Army in World War II. The jeep evolved into the Humvee, which saw heavy action — and entered Americans’ consciousness — during the Gulf War.
In the late 1990s, GM bought Hummer from AM General and began selling a smaller but still outsized model, the H2. Sales boomed after its 2005 introduction of an even smaller model, the H3, that was roughly equivalent in size to other automakers’ full-size SUVs.
Hummer’s image began to change as gas prices began creeping higher, the economy started to crack and the U.S. entered the most difficult period of the Iraq war. Sales, which peaked at 71,524 in 2006, plunged to just more than 9,000 vehicles in 2009. In January, GM sold just 265 Hummers in the U.S.
Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, said that just as the Hummer had cemented an image of military might combined with off-road brawn, changes in public sentiment turned SUVs “into tantamount to the creation of the devil himself.” …
In time, even Schwarzenegger became critical of Hummer’s gas-guzzling ways. Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said three of the California governor’s four Hummers have been converted to alternative fuels: One runs on hydrogen, one on biodiesel, one on vegetable oil….
Now, the only hope for Hummer’s survival is for a last-minute investor to snap up the brand….
If memory serves, The Hummer Plague started after Sept. 11, 2001, in the national climate of fear, hysteria and jingoism. It also was a climate of selfishness stoked by the unelected Bush regime, which advised us, in the wake of 9/11, to spend more money and to consume even more.
Americans are sheeple, and they followed the “leader.” Thus, the incredibly irresponsible Hummer.
I mean, we identified back in the 1970s that we all needed to be driving smaller vehicles, and then, three decades later, the Hummer.
I remember all of the post-9/11 Hummers, which were popular before the Vietraq War went sour, if memory serves, with their “Support Our Stormtroopers” — er, “Support Our Troops” — magnets on them. (Support our troops by consuming more oil, keeping them in the Middle East permanently! Makes perfect sense to me!)
Whenever I have seen a Hummer — and you don’t see them as often as you used to, thank Goddess — I have thought that if the driver wants to play war, then why can’t I play war, too, and maybe fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the driver, who believes that it is his or her prerogative to help to destroy the planet (and who, ironically, only perpetuates the “war on terror” by unnecessarily, selfishly increasing the demand for Middle Eastern oil)?
Seriously — if I see you driving a Hummer, I already know that I hate you.
It’s long been my observation that people drive like they live their lives: utterly stupidly and selfishly, or with some degree of regard for others and with some sense that we’re all in this together, that if all of us act as though we’re the only ones who matter, then we’re all fucked.
Maybe the death of the Hummer indicates more than that Americans can’t afford the gasoline. Maybe it also indicates that the nation is regaining its soul. Maybe.