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BEST-L  July 2008

BEST-L July 2008

Subject:

Love to Hate the Hummer

From:

"GRANOVSKAYA,YELENA" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

GRANOVSKAYA,YELENA

Date:

Tue, 29 Jul 2008 13:20:11 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

Hello,

For all of those who have been as discontented with Hummers as I
have been in the last few years this article appeared in the most
recent Newsweek. It talks about the history of the Hummer, how it
became tantamount of supporting the troops and how it is now dying
due to the disapproving public. To me its another good sign that
we are moving towards sustainability and public opinion is a great
tool to do so.

Newsweek

August 4, 2008
U.S. Edition

Love to Hate the Hummer;
It's gone from Hollywood status symbol to the butt of jokes faster
than you can say $4 a gallon.

SECTION: BUSINESS; Pg. 36 Vol. 152 No. 05 ISSN: 0028-9604

Has the Hummer lost its street cred? To find out, NEWSWEEK tooled
around the fashionable avenues of Los Angeles in one, just like
the boys from Queens who drive a yellow H2 chick magnet in HBO's
"Entourage." It wasn't pretty. We had a tough time finding a lot
that rents Hummers anymore, and when we finally landed a big black
H2, it already bore battle scars--long key marks scored along the
side. After burning a gallon of gas every eight miles, our
intrepid car reviewer Tara Weingarten and Business Editor David
Jefferson stopped at an outdoor cafa in the trendy Silver Lake
neighborhood, just down the block from an auto shop that converts
cars to run on vegetable oil (Lovecraft Biofuels said it couldn't
help us with our Hummer). Parallel-parking the beast caused a
commotion: David had to hop out to direct Tara, an expert driver
who wound up cutting off a biker, blocking two lanes of traffic
and rear-ending a bush before pulling into the space. The
disgusted diners had had enough. Three flipped us off, and one
even dropped trou and mooned our Hummer.

L.A. hipsters aren't the only ones turning tail on Hummer. As gas
prices soared above $4 a gallon, Hummer sales fell 60 percent in
May and 54 percent in June. But fuel costs are really only a flesh
wound. The mortal injury comes from its image implosion. Those gun
slits and that growling grille, which provided cartoony comfort
post 9/11, now seem sadly out of step as our focus turns from
Homeland Security to sustainability. To many, the Hummer now seems
overbearing, overweight, militaristic, narcissistic. Cultural
experts find it hard to recall a luxury good that has tarnished as
quickly. "It began in a heroic mode," says Michael Marsden, a pop
culture professor at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. "But then
when 80 percent of the American public turns against the war, what
do you have?"

Hummer was born in the early '90s, when AM General, the military
contractor that made the Gulf War Humvee (High-Mobility
Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), created a street-legal version at
the urging of Arnold Schwarzenegger (who has since tried to atone
by converting his Hummers to hydrogen and biofuel). GM acquired
Hummer in 1998 and in 2002 launched the slightly smaller H2. Gas
was about $1.35 a gallon, and the car quickly became an embed on
MTV's "Cribs" and "CSI: Miami."

Then came the war in Iraq, and buying a Hummer was tantamount to
supporting the troops. "Those who deface a Hummer in words or
deeds," an enthusiast told The New York Times shortly after the
war broke out, "deface the American flag." GM planned for a Hummer
surge, drawing up designs for a phalanx of Hummers and urging
dealers to spend millions building showrooms that looked like
Quonset huts. But the war went south, gas went north, and Hummer
became roadkill.

We asked a Toyota of Santa Monica dealer to evaluate what a Hummer
like ours would get in trade for a Prius. He said he would
probably only make the deal if we paid him $25,000, which is,
ahem, about the price of a Prius. These days, a three-year-old
Hummer H2 fetches $20,925, just 36 percent of its original sticker
price of $59,070, according to the Automotive Lease Guide (in
2006, three-year-old H2s were retaining 58 percent of their
value). "I couldn't give the damn thing away," says Kentucky
attorney Bob Sanders, who has grown weary of the grief he gets for
his gas hog. "Any environmentalist is welcome to buy it from me
for fair market value."

General Motors, Hummer's ailing parent, finally waved the white
flag in June and hired Citibank to sell the brand. At a press
conference Friday, CEO Rick Wagoner said, "We have some interested
buyers." Since the old warhorse still has cachet overseas,
analysts predict bidders will come from India, China or Russia (an
ironic post-cold-war victory?). If there are no takers, GM says it
will make Hummers smaller and easier on gas--that is, after it
rolls out a Hummer pickup this fall that's even bigger and no more
fuel-efficient.

Wyoming dealer Trace Swisher wonders what will become of his $1.5
million Quonset hut. "I guess it could always become a Starbucks,"
he says. If only Hummers ran on soy lattes.

With Tara Weingarten, Patrick Crowley and Mary Chapman
--
GRANOVSKAYA,YELENA
Environmental and Life Sciences

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