Have you checked the price of a used H2 SUT lately? How about a nicely-equipped H3? I shouldn’t even have to mention the H1, which is one of the greatest halo vehicles of all time. Given the amounts people are willing to pay for what are essentially heavily stylized 10-year-old Chevrolet Tahoes and Colorados, it seems that Hummer, dare I say, would very likely be a darling of the modern automotive era.
Take a step back and refresh your memory: the rights to the Hummer brand were purchased by General Motors in 1999. Soon after, GM re-branded the original civilian Hummer as the H1, and in 2003, in its first extension of the brand, introduced the H2 — a large, bulky SUV sharing components with GM’s other full-size SUVs and heavy-duty trucks.
For the 2006 model year, GM then introduced a smaller Hummer, dubbed the H3, which shared many of its components with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon (and Isuzu i-Series!) range of compact pickups. In the ensuing years, the H2 was given a mid-cycle update, a V8-powered H3 Alpha went on sale for 2008 and versions of both the H2 and H3 were introduced with practical pickup truck beds. Before any of the GM Hummer products could reach a second generation, though, the economic downturn set in. And with oil prices high and disposable incomes low, GM was forced to consolidate its lineup and wind down the Hummer brand after the 2010 model year.
A planned sale to a Chinese company fell through, and GM to this day still owns the rights to the dormant brand. Beyond a low production Hummer-branded electric car, made possible by a licensing agreement between GM and EV maker MEV, the Hummer brand has pretty much ceased to exist in a formal manner since the last remaining dealer stock of H2s and H3s was finally sold off, likely in the early months of 2011.
While winding down the brand was admittedly probably the right idea, imagine for a moment if GM had somehow managed to keep the brand alive, skating by with minimal updates for a few years until the economy came back around and trucks and SUVs once again came into favor.
Hindsight is 20/20, but let’s think about some of the hottest-selling vehicles on the market right now. This past year, Toyota sold more 4Runners than in any of the model’s other 34 years of existence. The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler this past month nearly outsold the Toyota Camry. The off-road-oriented Ford Raptor is the most lusted-over model of the F-150 lineup. And brands like Range Rover and Jeep continue to add models and popularity.
The successes of these would-be competitors tell the story: The Hummer brand would be killing it in the current market, giving General Motors a genuine Jeep competitor — also known as a license to print money.
If things had continued as planned, the brand would have evolved as needed, and each of GM’s Hummer models would likely now be entering into its third generation. A 2018 H2 would by now be a leaner, more self-aware version of its original self. The current H3 would be sharing a platform with the much-lauded current Colorado. And the planned H4, based on the HX concept shown below, could’ve spent the last half-decade stealing sales from the Wrangler. A fourth, more fuel-efficient model would’ve probably been added along the way to insulate the brand against gas price fluctuations. The top-tier "Alpha" trim level might now be reserved for high-performance off-road variants of each model, giving GM a pseudo Range Rover- and Raptor-fighter in the H2 Alpha, an SUV version of the Colorado ZR2 in the H3 Alpha and a Rubicon Trail-worthy H4 Alpha.
It’s safe to say, though, that we likely won’t be seeing a revival of the Hummer brand any time soon. GM has invested heavily in its Chevrolet and GMC truck brands, which is probably a more sustainable strategy, as these brands are better positioned to absorb changes in the market that come as a result of economic ups and downs. GM has probably also learned a lesson about spreading operations too thin across too many brands, furthering the case for the current strategy of integrating off-road trucks and SUVs into its more stable Chevrolet and GMC brands. Still, it’s fun to think about what could have been from one of the coolest brands of all time — and it isn’t crazy to think that Hummer would’ve thrived under current market conditions.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.