x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

All-terrain Hummer revs up to drive off into the sunset

The roaring Hummer, beloved by off-road enthusiasts and urban drivers alike, may soon be a collector's item and a relic from another era.

The roaring Hummer, beloved by off-road enthusiasts and urban drivers alike, may soon be a collector's item and a relic from another era. And the race is on for loyal fans to get behind the wheel of the remaining military-style 4x4s before they roll off the region's showroom floors for good. With no buyer of the Hummer brand in sight, General Motors (GM) has stopped making the all-terrain monsters and only 537 new vehicles are left in the Middle East. Only 231 Hummers remain in UAE showrooms, according to GM.

"We are winding down our Hummer operations worldwide," said Tim Lee, GM's executive vice president and the president of GM international operations, during a visit to Dubai. "We have inventory that we intend to sell, they are great products. But Hummer itself is on the shelf. We are not producing Hummer today in the company." When GM shifted its focus last year to its core brands, Hummer was up for the taking. In June last year it looked like the famous brand would be rescued.

Amid murmurs of interested Gulf investors, a Chinese equipment maker, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, emerged as Hummer's white knight. The tentative deal was expected to save more than 3,000 jobs at Hummer dealerships and production facilities across the US. But it fell through and there were no negotiations for other takeovers, said Mr Lee. With no options in sight, the car loved by Arnold Schwarzenegger and UAE dune-bashers alike, is nearing the end of the road.

"There is not that many of them," said Mike Devereux, the departing president of GM Middle East. "And frankly, there are some folks who are looking at this, saying 'hey, if I want to get one of these, this is the only time I have to do that.' Especially for this brand in this market. We have nothing but good brand imagery for Hummer here, and always have had." But current and future owners of the Hummer - originally called High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) by the US military and later shortened to Humvee - need not worry too much.

GM will continue to stock replacement parts and service Hummer vehicles, said John Stadwick, Mr Devereux's successor. "Hummer customers will be taken care of," Mr Stadwick said. "General Motors is standing behind them making sure we have parts and service available to support them throughout the life cycle." Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst at Shuaa Capital in Dubai, said although the Hummer was popular in the region, questions surrounding the brand may put off potential customers.

"When a brand is prone to extinguishment, people are not eager to jump into it," Mr Gally said. "It only comes years and years down the line when some models become collector cars and can get back that appeal. "But only a few make this category of collector car so in the immediate term when the brand, in the eye of a customer, is almost dying, there is little incentive for customers, especially in the Middle East where conditions are harsh and people are used to replacing cars every two or three years."

aligaya@thenational.ae