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Hummer owners faithful to the end

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Hummer owners faithful to the end

Drivers say retirement further enhances status of military-style gas-guzzler

STEPHANIE HOOPS / Scripps Howard News Service

Hummer enthusiasts say they won't turn their backs on the brand just because General Motors Co. is retiring it.

"I will keep my Hummer forever," said Angga "Pico" Febrian, 24, a bartender from Oxnard, Calif.

Febrian typically drives his Hummer in downtown Ventura. He can afford to drive it only on weekends, and he understands why the brand may have lost buyers in the economic downturn. Still, he's sad to see the Hummer's demise.

"I feel they should continue it," he said. "If you want something to show or to stand out from the crowd, it's totally one of those vehicles."

For that reason, Febrian hopes his H2 SUT increases in value, like a rare piece of art.

"They're just making us more elite than we originally were," said Bob DeVore, who sits on the board of The HUMMER Club Inc., a national nonprofit.

DeVore drives an H2 sport utility vehicle and said he spends time with Hummer owners involved in off-roading -- as opposed to what he called "mall shoppers" -- "people who bought the Hummer because they like the look."

DeVore said Hummer's off-roading crowd is like a family.

"We're not going to turn our backs," he said. "We'll wheel our trucks until the tires fall off."

GM had planned to sell Hummer to a Chinese company, but the deal fell through last month, so GM is now winding down its Hummer operations. No timetable has been set, but GM has said it will continue to honor existing Hummer warranties.

The Hummer, which traces its origins to the Humvee military vehicle, has been sold in the United States for just eight years. The tank-like SUVs have attracted much derision and been a bane of environmentalists for their poor gas mileage. The smallest model gets 16 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.

GM opened its first Hummer dealerships in 2002 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when patriotism was high and the Hummer's military-transport appearance was socially acceptable. Sales peaked in 2006, when 71,524 vehicles were sold.

Hummer's annual sales had fallen dramatically, to 27,485 by 2008, when gas prices were at record highs.

The death of the Hummer, however, can't all be blamed on gas prices, said Stephen Rapier, a Pepperdine University business professor who specializes in marketing and brand strategy. As the economy tanked and people began downsizing their lives, Web sites, YouTube videos, comic strips and comedians took aim at Hummer drivers for their perceived gluttony. Rapier said the negative attention was a turnoff for the demographic that might have initially purchased Hummers.

"If times are tough and you're driving a car that's perceived as arrogant by virtue of its size," he said, "that may not play too well."

For those who already own Hummers, Rapier isn't surprised that they are inclined to hold on to them. Owning certain cars is like being part of a club, he said.

"This was an extension of their image, and usually things we buy and own act as props in the narrative of our lives," he said. "In other words, they are an extension of who we are.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100408/AUTO03/4080369/1148/auto01/Hummer-owners-faithful-to-the-end#ixzz0kVodXBF7

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