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Timeline: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Hummer

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Return of the Hummer

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Timeline: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Hummer

The Hummer brand has a relatively short history, but its trucks are some of America’s biggest automotive icons (both figuratively and literally). Originally designed for the military, Hummers are famous for their size, off-road capability, and of course, fuel consumption.

The latter proved to be the Hummer’s Achilles’ heel. By 2007, a recession was coming, and the appetite for oversized gas guzzlers had shrunk. The Hummer brand was discontinued, and its last truck rolled off the production line in 2010.

Over a decade later, GM is reviving the Hummer as a fully-electric off-road vehicle. Preorders have surpassed 65,000 units, but how does this compare to the brand’s heyday in the 2000s?

The Origins

The Hummer traces its roots to 1983, when AM General, a heavy vehicle manufacturer, received $1 billion from the Pentagon to build the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee).

The Humvee became a staple of the U.S. military, and by 1991, 72,000 had been produced. The truck was especially useful in Middle Eastern conflict zones due to its ability to transport troops and cargo over rough terrain.

If you’re wondering how this military vehicle ended up on public roads, you can thank none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While filming the 1990 action-comedy, Kindergarten Cop, Arnold reportedly fell in love with a Humvee used on set. He later persuaded AM General to produce a consumer version of the truck, which arrived in 1992 under the name “Hummer”.

Apart from adding creature comforts like air conditioning, AM General made very few changes to the consumer-spec Hummer. It was notoriously crude and unsuited for city driving, but its military roots gave it plenty of character. GM saw an opportunity in expanding the brand, so in 1999, it purchased the rights to produce and market the Hummer.

Rise and Fall

GM moved rather quickly after purchasing Hummer. It renamed the truck to “H1”, and released an “H2” just a few years later.

Sales in the U.S. jumped, hitting over 35,000 in 2003 before tapering off slightly. To keep momentum going, GM rolled out the smaller and cheaper “H3” in 2005. Sales once again spiked, and the brand recorded over 71,000 sales in 2006.

Unfortunately, what goes up eventually comes down. In 2009, during GM’s bankruptcy proceedings, the Hummer brand was discontinued along with Pontiac and Saturn.

YearAnnual U.S. Hummer Sales
1992316
1993612
1994718
19951,432
19961,374
19971,209
1998945
1999831
20001,333
2001869
200219,581
200335,259
200429,345
200556,727
200671,524
200755,986
200827,485
20099,046
20103,812
20110

So what went wrong? For starters, the H2 was a victim of the times. It was large, expensive, and extremely thirsty for gas—attributes that don’t fare well during an economic recession.

In fact, the H2 never received an official fuel economy rating from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it was too heavy. Regulations at the time excluded vehicles over 8,500 lbs from testing, though journalists observed an average of less than 10 mpg.

The H3 mitigated some of these issues by downsizing, and it quickly become the brand’s best selling vehicle. This success was short-lived, as the H3 alone could not sustain the brand.

Jolted to Life

In 2020, GM announced the all-electric Hummer EV. It bears a strong resemblance to the H2, carrying over iconic design elements such as the front grill with vertical slats.

Compared to the H2, this electric model is longer, wider, and heavier. Estimates suggest that it will weigh over 9,000 lbs, which according to EPA estimates, is more than double the weight of the average car. This is primarily attributed to the truck’s vast quantity of battery packs.

Power is also increased thanks to the electric drivetrain, with the “Edition 1” model boasting 1,000 horsepower from its three electric motors (a similar configuration to Tesla’s Plaid platform). Lesser models, which only have two motors, are expected to generate north of 600 horsepower.

A Promising Restart

Will battery power be the key to the Hummer’s long-term success?

So far, GM appears to have played its cards right. New trucks are outselling new cars by a ratio of 3-to-1 in the U.S., and the release of the Hummer EV is well-timed to capitalize on this trend.

The Hummer EV also sheds one of its predecessors’ biggest weaknesses—fuel consumption. With gas prices at all-time highs, can we dare to call the new Hummer “economical”?

Either way, GM is certainly enjoying the economic benefits of its decision. Over 65,000 pre-orders have been received, and production of the Hummer EV is completely sold out until 2024. The truck is being built at Factory Zero in Michigan, which is GM’s first EV-dedicated production facility.

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Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

Here are the highest vehicles per capita by country as a growing global middle class is fueling car ownership rates around the world.

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This bar graph shows the number of vehicles per 1,000 people around the world.

Who Owns the Most Vehicles per Capita, by Country?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2020, there were 289 million vehicles in use in America, or about 18% of the global total.

With one of the largest car ownership rates worldwide, the number of U.S. cars on the road have more than doubled since the 1960s. But how does ownership compare to other countries, and who is seeing the fastest growth rates amid a rising global middle class?

This graphic shows vehicles per capita by country, based on data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA).

Highest Car Ownership Rates Worldwide

Below, we rank countries based on the number of registered vehicles in use per 1,000 people, including both passenger cars and commercial vehicles as of 2020:

CountryNumber of Vehicles in Use
per 1000 Inhabitants
Average Annual Growth Rate
2015-2020
🇳🇿 New Zealand8693%
🇺🇸 U.S.8602%
🇵🇱 Poland7614%
🇮🇹 Italy7561%
🇦🇺 Australia7372%
🇨🇦 Canada7073%
🇫🇷 France7041%
🇨🇿 Czechia6583%
🇵🇹 Portugal6402%
🇳🇴 Norway6351%
🇦🇹 Austria6322%
🇬🇧 UK6322%
🇩🇪 Germany6272%
🇪🇸 Spain6272%
🇬🇷 Greece6171%
🇯🇵 Japan6120%
🇨🇭 Switzerland6041%
🇧🇪 Belgium5901%
🇳🇱 Netherlands5882%
🇫🇮 Finland5771%
🇸🇪 Sweden5441%
🇩🇰 Denmark5402%
🇮🇪 Ireland5403%
🇲🇾 Malaysia5356%
🇸🇰 Slovakia5133%
🇱🇾 Libya4904%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria485-1%
🇭🇷 Croatia4743%
🇸🇾 Syria4727%
🇭🇺 Hungary4634%
🇰🇷 South Korea4582%
🇷🇴 Romania4387%
🇮🇱 Israel4044%
🇷🇺 Russia3892%
🇧🇾 Belarus3871%
🇲🇽 Mexico3584%
🇹🇼 Taiwan3441%
🇦🇪 UAE3438%
🇷🇸 Serbia3304%
🇦🇷 Argentina3110%
🇹🇭 Thailand2775%
🇨🇱 Chile2461%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan226-1%
🇨🇳 China22314%
🇹🇷 Türkiye2204%
🇧🇷 Brazil2141%
🇺🇦 Ukraine192-1%
🇮🇷 Iran1832%
🇿🇦 South Africa1761%
🇪🇨 Ecuador1523%
🇻🇪 Venezuela149-1%
🇩🇿 Algeria1443%
🇲🇦 Morocco1124%
🇨🇴 Colombia1111%
🇮🇶 Iraq1114%
🇵🇪 Peru884%
🇮🇩 Indonesia785%
🇪🇬 Egypt644%
🇳🇬 Nigeria565%
🇻🇳 Vietnam5017%
🇵🇭 Philippines383%
🇮🇳 India3310%
🇵🇰 Pakistan207%

Clinching top spot is New Zealand, a country known for its love of cars.

With nearly nine cars on the road to every 10 people, this figure is notably high considering that children make up about 20% of the population. The majority of cars are imported second hand from Japan thanks to a wave of deregulation in the 1980s along with the country being a major producer of right-hand drive cars.

The U.S. falls close behind, with a clear preference for trucks and SUVs. In fact, the Ford F-1 Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 42 consecutive years.

In Europe, Poland has the highest number of vehicles per person, but one of the lowest share of electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs make up nearly 16% of all cars in top-ranking country Norway, they comprise 0.1% in Poland. On average, EVs account for 0.8% of passenger cars in the European Union.

Driven by an expanding middle class, Vietnam has seen the fastest growth in ownership. Between 2015 and 2020, the motorization rate grew by an astonishing 17% each year. Additionally, China witnessed 14% growth while India’s vehicles per 1,000 people increased 10% annually over the period.

The Top EV Markets, by Country

As EV sales gain momentum, here are the biggest markets worldwide, based on the number of all-EV cars in use as of 2022:

CountryEstimated Number of EVs in Use
2022
🇨🇳 China11,000,000
🇺🇸 U.S.2,100,000
🇩🇪 Germany1,000,000
🇫🇷 France620,000
🇳🇴 Norway590,000
🇬🇧 UK550,000
🇳🇱 Netherlands340,000
🇰🇷 South Korea300,000
🇨🇦 Canada250,000
🇯🇵 Japan210,000

Source: IEA Global EV Outlook 2023

China is home to over half of the world’s EVs.

Its foothold on the global EV market can be explained by its close proximity to the raw materials used in EV batteries. In fact, China produces roughly 70% of the world’s rare earth metals and has more battery production capacity than all other countries combined.

Adding to this, China developed key government policies that specifically tackled operational hurdles, such as battery constraints, leading to innovation in core technologies. In 2023, EVs made up 31% of all car sales in China, boosted by government incentives and strong consumer demand.

Norway is another leader in the EV market, whose government began introducing EV policies as early as 1990. By 2025, the country aims to phase out internal combustion engine vehicle sales completely. About 80% of all vehicles sales in Norway were EVs in 2022, the highest in the world.

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