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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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Global EV Production: BYD Surpasses Tesla

This graphic explores the latest EV production data for 2022, which shows BYD taking a massive step forward to surpass Tesla.

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Global EV Production: BYD Surpasses Tesla

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

2022 was another historic year for EVs, with annual production surpassing 10 million cars for the first time ever. This represents a sizeable bump up from 2021’s figure of 6.7 million.

In this infographic, we’ve used data from EV Volumes to visualize the top 15 brands by output. The color of each brand’s bubble represents their growth from 2021, with the darker shades depicting a larger percentage increase.

Data Overview and Key Takeaways

The raw data we used to create this infographic is listed below. Volume figures for 2021 were included for convenience.

RankCompany20222021Growth from 2021
1🇨🇳 BYD1,858,364598,019211%
2🇺🇸 Tesla1,314,319936,24740%
3🇩🇪 VW Group839,207763,85110%
4🇺🇸 GM (incl. Wuling Motors)584,602516,63113%
5🇺🇸 🇮🇹 🇫🇷 Stellantis512,276381,84334%
6🇰🇷 Hyundai Motors (incl. Kia)497,816348,66043%
7🇩🇪 BMW Group433,164329,18232%
8🇨🇳 Geely Auto Group351,35699,980251%
9🇩🇪 Mercedes-Benz Group337,364281,92920%
10🇫🇷 🇯🇵 Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance335,964289,47316%
11🇨🇳 GAC Group287,977125,384130%
12🇨🇳 SAIC Motor Corp.256,341237,0438%
13🇸🇪 Volvo Cars253,266220,57615%
14🇨🇳 Chery Auto Co.253,141107,482136%
15🇨🇳 Changan Auto Co.245,555105,072134%
16🌎 Other (41 companies)1,927,2111,326,26245%

Includes BEVs and PHEVs

BYD Auto

BYD Auto has leaped past Tesla to become the new EV king, boosting its output by a massive 211% in 2022. Given this trajectory, the company will likely become the world’s first automaker to produce over 2 million EVs in a single year.

BYD has a limited presence in non-domestic markets, but this could change rather quickly. The company is planning a major push into Europe, where it expects to build factories in order to avoid EU tariffs on Chinese car imports.

The company is also building a factory in Thailand, to produce right-hand drive models for markets like Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Tesla

Tesla increased its output by a respectable 40% in 2022, staying ahead of Western brands like Volkswagen (+10%) and GM (+13%), but falling behind its Chinese rivals such as Geely (+251%).

Whether these Chinese brands can maintain their triple digit growth figures is uncertain, but one thing is clear: Tesla is facing more competition than ever before.

The company is targeting annual production of 20 million cars by 2030, meaning it will need to keep yearly growth rates in the high double digits for the rest of the decade. To support this initiative, Tesla is planning a multi-billion dollar factory in Mexico capable of producing 1 million cars a year.

Hyundai

Hyundai Motor Company, which also owns Kia, posted a similar growth rate to Tesla. The South Korean automaker was a relatively early player in the EV space, revealing the first Hyundai Ioniq in 2016.

In late 2022, several countries including South Korea expressed their disapproval of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which withdrew tax credits on EVs not produced within the United States.

Hyundai is currently building a $5.5 billion EV factory in the state of Georgia, but this facility will not become operational until 2025. In the meantime, South Korea has revised its own EV subsidy program to favor domestic brands.

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