Hasta La Vista, Hummer


When historians look back on the fall of the American Empire, the Hummer may well serve as the symbol of cultural excess that brought down the once great nation. The Romans got gout and fell over from guzzling wine in lead pots; we bellied up to the gas pumps sucking down the sweet oily nectar that would flow forever.

If ever there was an apologue for the gilded anything-goes Clinton era, it is the Hummer. Hell, the car’s name itself calls to mind images of stripper-laden rap videos, $1,000 bottles of Cristal, cigars and teenage fantasies involving interns, corridors of power and sullied dresses.

Seemingly created for a real-time-action movie starring the Terminator himself, the Hummer was originally a military vehicle made famous in Desert Storm where some 20,000 of the vehicles helped display American might, showing the world once and for all, we make the rules when it comes to fighting wars in the Middle East.

Those days – and the Hummer marque – are long gone. GM announced that a deal to sell the brand to a Chinese manufacturer collapsed and it would begin to wind down the division unless another magical suitor has $150 million to burn. Ironically, the primary reason the Chinese government wouldn’t approve the deal was due to environmental concerns.

And the greenies rejoiced!

(Although, please keep in mind, 3,000 American jobs will be affected. As Bruce Springsteen said about his hometown, “Foreman says the jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.”)

In some ways, the Hummer already feels like a relic from another era. A vehicular charade from a time when play-acting weekend solider was a rich man’s hobby, and 5,363 American troops hadn’t lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger himself bailed on the brand in 2006, and only 9,000 were sold in 2009. GM kept scaling them down, but the “efficient” H3 and its 15-mpg never captured the collective “love it or leave it” imagination like the original H1, and remaindered Hummers have been collecting cobwebs at dealerships ever since.

Does this mean Americans have become more responsible in their car-buying ways?

Well, Ford announced January SUV sales were up 8%. Alas.

The end of Hummer is a business decision, nothing else. But as far as symbolism goes, it’s a good day for common automotive sense.

There isn’t a lot to be said for the Hummer and one suspects it will die a quiet death, a lot quieter than the sounds of Earth being chewed-up by a pointless egotistical six-figure S.U.V. that should have been buried in the desert long ago, anyway.

In the end, there’s only one thing to be said about the Hummer.

Hasta la vista, baby.