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HUMMER to Green up Image but Keeps it Rugged

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Helping Hummer
GM tries to improve brand's fuel economy
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By RICK KRANZ | Link to Original Article @ AutoWeek | Updated: 06/18/07, 8:25 am et


DURANGO, Colo. -- As the sun rises over downtown Durango, residents head to work in a parade of SUVs and pickups.

Nestled amid the Rocky Mountains, this small town embraces the four-wheel-drive lifestyle. A popular pastime is rock climbing - motorized, that is, behind the wheel of a Chevy, Jeep or Toyota.

But over at the Rochester Hotel on Second Avenue, several workers assigned to the Hummer press event here are washing off the residue of broken eggs hurled at a dozen 2008 Hummer H2s.

Hummer has an image problem. It is the poster boy for poor fuel economy. And now that Congress is about to boost corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, Hummer has a fuel economy problem - and a bigger image problem.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, the quintessential devil-may-care Hummer owner, has become an environmentalist. Now it's Hummer's turn.

General Motors believes it can improve Hummer's image and fuel economy without hurting the brand's two bedrock attributes, in-your-face styling and off-road performance.

For starters, GM will introduce a mix of engines that run on diesel fuel or ethanol blends. The automaker also is expected to introduce a small, more fuel-efficient model dubbed H4. The bottom line: GM will adapt, but it will not abandon Hummer.

"Those are bumps along the road but they are not unsurpassable," says Hummer General Manager Martin Walsh. "Hummer is what it is. It has an iconic design that stands out from anything else. That design attracts attention because it is easy to recognize by those who love it and those who don't."

Diesels, ethanol


But the world is changing, especially when it comes to fuel economy. The H2 currently is exempt from CAFE regulations because its gross vehicle weight exceeds 8,500 pounds. But in the 2011 model year, the exemption for big trucks is scheduled to rise to 10,000 pounds.

GM estimates that the H2 gets 13 to 14 mpg in combined city/highway driving. So it would drag down GM's fleet fuel economy at a time when Congress seems likely to boost CAFE. An industry-backed proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., would increase truck fleet fuel economy standards to 30 mpg by 2025, up from 22.2 mpg today.

The current Hummers won't approach that standard - GM would rely on smaller trucks to do so - but they'll do somewhat better.

For the 2009 model year, the H2 will be configured to run on E85, a blend of ethanol and gasoline. A year later, the H3 adds E85 capability. And in model year 2011, Walsh expects to introduce a line of diesel-powered trucks.

Hummers won't be equipped, though, with cylinder deactivation or hybrid powertrains. Cylinder deactivation would provide little or no increase in fuel economy, GM engineers say. And hybrids would degrade Hummer's off-road capability, a no-no for the brand's testosterone-drenched image.

Overseas markets


There is yet another incentive for Hummer to get religion on fuel economy: overseas markets. Today, Hummer is sold in 34 countries, and this year the brand is expanding into Australia and South Africa.

Last year, overseas markets accounted for 10 percent of the brand's global sales of 82,000 units. That percentage will increase as Hummer enters new markets.

To prosper in foreign markets where gasoline is costly, Hummer will downsize. Walsh declined to confirm reports that the new model would be dubbed H4, a vehicle that would be smaller and cheaper than the H3.

Walsh adds that GM has always intended to add models. "We are going to get global growth by building vehicles that are definitely appealing to those markets," he noted. "Logic dictates that we are probably going to go smaller to get into those markets."

Will more fuel-efficient Hummers mollify environmentalists? Perhaps not, but analyst Rebecca Lindland suggests that the brand will continue to appeal to off-road enthusiasts.

"Hummer is not for everybody," says Lindland, a senior market analyst for Global Insight, a consulting firm based in Lexington, Mass. "There are certainly people that would not be caught dead in a Hummer. There are more fuel efficient vehicles, but that is not what Hummer is about."

Hummer executive Walsh is optimistic that the brand can prosper in an environmentally minded era.

"We're in this for the long haul." he said. "... We are going to do whatever it takes to be successful."
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1) Hummer never had an image problem until the media started hyping another mandantory "flaw" with another 'hot' domestic brand. No one bitches about the Land Cruisers that get fuel economy that's almost as bad and nobody recognizes that the H3 is indeed smaller and more efficient.

2) The greenies, politicans and "do-gooders" do not care if "Hummer isn't for everyone" it contradicts their views on life so they will do all that they can to stomp out the division and it's enthusiasts (Just like they'll probably try to do with all of us enthusiasts in one way or another eventually) Remember; these are the same people who preach democracy and equality for all but then in the very same breath, denounce the war in Iraq and bitch at everyone around them because they're not "living their lives as they should." (READ: As the "do-gooder" wants them to live it)

3) I wish like hell I had the money for an H2 because I'd buy it just to drive it around and piss people off. It's not that I think everyone NEEDS an H2, or SUV for that matter. However, I do believe that everyone NEEDS the ability to choose whatever the hell they want for and in a vehicle.

Hummer does have a bit of an image problem in the people who control "pop culture"... Luckily, the people who buy Hummers usually don't care about the people who control that "pop culture" But then, the Prius also has/ is getting a bit of an image problem as well.

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F.O.G...my sentiments exactly. I'm driving an 07 Avalanche right now, and I fully expect my next vehicle to be an H2 for the reasons you listed above. Why isn't the Ram SRT-10 being called out? Range Rover Sport? Toyota Sequoia? H2 is so iconic that its so easy to call it out as the symbol behind gas guzzlers. I honestly wonder if Toyota had made the H2, would it be under as much scrutiny as it is under GM? Either way, I can't wait to get my H2.

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Everyone wants to tout E85, but what they don't know is that there is a 20-30% loss in fuel economy associated with this fuel. It burns very fast, almost like race fuel.

So there is one way the H2 and H3 could save gas if they did a little smart engineering for the future, and it is not with the engines. Dump the full-time-4wd!! There is so much driveline loss/strain that it is like trying to drive through a mud-bog all the time. The diesels can't come soon enough, but that is a goal that is way out there...yet.

You would be lucky to see 13-14mpg in a H2. Don't get me wrong though I do like the H3, the H2 less so, only because I road in one on trip back from Canada and I thought I was going to need my butt amputated. The worst seats I have ever experienced, I would have had a more enjoyable time sitting on nails. The H2 got 5-6 instant mpg shown on the dash towing a trailer at 70-75mph...yikes!!

Edited by RJB
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Corn Ethanol has some efficiency issues but I hope we do continue to explore that route. Especially biofuels that use various parts of the plants, I think that's where the true efficiency gains lie.

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Corn Ethanol has some efficiency issues but I hope we do continue to explore that route. Especially biofuels that use various parts of the plants, I think that's where the true efficiency gains lie.

RJB is talking about how ethanol *fuel* burns quicker than gasoline, leading to decreased economy, not the fact that growing corn for ethanol is inefficient.

A Tahoe that gets 14/20 on gasoline gets 11/15 on E85.

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F.O.G...my sentiments exactly. I'm driving an 07 Avalanche right now, and I fully expect my next vehicle to be an H2 for the reasons you listed above. Why isn't the Ram SRT-10 being called out? Range Rover Sport? Toyota Sequoia? H2 is so iconic that its so easy to call it out as the symbol behind gas guzzlers. I honestly wonder if Toyota had made the H2, would it be under as much scrutiny as it is under GM? Either way, I can't wait to get my H2.

currently, if T made the "H2" it'd have body cracks by 20K, run poorly or not at all, and would probably cost several grand more than the H2 does, and have about 80% the capability the real one has. LOL

Corn Ethanol has some efficiency issues but I hope we do continue to explore that route. Especially biofuels that use various parts of the plants, I think that's where the true efficiency gains lie.

you mean like getting ~70% the range a gallon of gas can get, while also making it uses tons of water/"barrel" produced.
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People like rugged, and I agree with FOG on the media. The product was never bad, and hard core off roaders have never been mileage champs. I am glad to see GM being proactive and trying to improve efficiency. I am looking forward to the H4 and diesels in the H2 and hopefully H3 and H4.

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you mean like getting ~70% the range a gallon of gas can get, while also making it uses tons of water/"barrel" produced.

Yeah, in a nutshell. Ethanol does burn faster (hence less range) therefore it would take something like a 10 acre plot of land per year to fuel one car.

I'm pretty sure there is a grass biodiesel that is much better, but I can't remember the name of it right now. I'm also excited about the methods being explored that use the corn as well as the stalk. It'd be great to have a fuel based on parts of the plant that aren't consumable, not to count the plant fibers store more energy anyway.

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It's a shame there's not enough signature space for FOG's first post, or it'd be in mine, in its entirety.

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