What Killed the Hummer?

Gas guzzling, sure--but that's not the whole story

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A deal to pawn off Hummer--manufacturer of gaudy juggernaut vehicles--to a Chinese firm has collapsed. General Motors now intends to dismantle the division. The symbolic zenith of America's obsession with huge vehicles, the Hummer has inspired few fond remembrances. Nevertheless, the news has surprised analysts, who are groping for firm details about why the deal imploded. They've devised a few plausible theories:

  • Gas Guzzling Out of Fashion  Tom Diemer at Politics Daily rattles off the famous names that took some sheen from the vehicle's muscular image. But it was that very same devil-may-care, "gas-guzzling" image that killed it, as "the Hummer was hurt by rising gas prices and consumer caution as the recession took hold." The Daily Beast's Tunku Varadarajan echoes this idea, taking it further into a meditation about how the end of the Hummer symbolizes the end of America's "obsession with largeness."
  • SUVs on the Way Out  Douglas A. McIntyre predicts that the Hummer is merely the first SUV to go tripping into the grave. He says its "demise spells trouble for Jeep and GMC" because those brands are still peddling some of the biggest SUVs on the market.
  • Chinese Regulators Balked  Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic says that Chinese regulators understood that Hummer's brand of fuel-loving vehicles is on the outs, and "clearly didn't want one of their companies taking it on." Yet he suggests this may not be the end for Hummer. Remember how Saab came back from the dead? Still, he says, "Hummer lovers should probably prepare for the worst."
  • Lending Problems in China?  Matthew DeBord of The Big Money picks up on a theme buried in the New York Times and stock-analysis site Seeking Alpha: tight lending. The Times story says Chinese banks became "reluctant to lend money." Robert Salomon of Seeking Alpha suggests this might the explanation for the collapse, since the Hummer deal seemed "swift and sound... even with the regulatory delay."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.