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Author`s name Alex Naumov

GM seeks to change public opinion on Hummer

General Motors wants people to start thinking about Hummers as big old trucks built to do a job, instead of as gas-guzzling SUVs for the rich.

In the six years since GM rolled out the Hummer H2, the brand has become a lightning rod for environmentalists. Owners complain of finding their vehicles keyed in parking lots, being sneered at by neighbors and feeling as if the tide of green angst is being channeled in their direction.

A survey by J.D. Power and Associates last year said SUV buyers avoid the Hummer brand more than any other, mostly because they believe the trucks are gas guzzlers.

"Hummer has an image of being the big, ponderous vehicles," says Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power. "Really, it gets about the same or as good gas mileage as several other (SUVs). … The name Hummer connotes a much more gas-guzzling vehicle than really is on the road today."

In an attempt to deflect some of the criticism, Hummer stopped making the military-based, five-ton H1, and each new model — the H2 and H3 — has been lighter and more fuel-efficient. (The EPA rates the 5.3-liter-engine H3 at 14 miles per gallon, a comparable Chevy Suburban at 16 mpg in combined city-highway use.) Still, H3 designers intentionally maintained an intimidating look, USA Today reports.

Mark LaNeve, vice president of sales, service and marketing for GM North America, says he'd love for consumers to begin thinking of Hummers as tools to get a job done. "No one criticizes a bulldozer for its gas mileage. That's because it's built to do a job."

Hummer is a brand of large off-road vehicles (H1) or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) (H2, H3,) sold by General Motors, also known as GM. The H1 version is based on the military High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, or Humvee). The Hummer is one of the larger 4x4 types, with commensurate high fuel consumption. In most countries, a hummer is considered to be a truck, rather than a regular SUV as it does not meet environmental protection standards. In some countries, including New Zealand and Australia, a truck licence is needed in order to operate some of the heavier models of Hummer.

Hummers were originally built by AM General Corporation, formerly the military and government vehicle division of American Motors, in its South Bend, Indiana assembly plant. AM General had planned to sell a civilian version of the Hummer as far back as the late 1980s. In 1990, two matching white Hummers were driven from London to Beijing over the rough roads of central Soviet Union. The Hummers made the trip with ease, for they were built to drive on off-road terrain. The highlights of this journey were broadcast in the United States on ESPN. This publicity would pale in comparison to the attention that the HMMWV received for its service in Operation: Desert Storm the following year.

In 1992, AM General began selling a civilian version of the M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Hum-Vee) vehicle to the public under the brand name "Hummer". According to sources they began doing so after Arnold Schwarzenegger asked them to; apparently, he was impressed by a convoy of HMMWVs that drove by during his filming Kindergarten Cop in 1990.

In 1998, AM General sold the brand name to General Motors but continued to manufacture the vehicles. GM is responsible for the marketing and distribution of all Hummers produced by AM General. In the next few years, GM introduced two new homegrown models, the H2 and H3, and renamed the original vehicle H1. AM General continues to build the H1 and is contracted by GM to produce the H2. The H3 is built in Shreveport, LA alongside the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. Unlike the H1, which is a true off-road vehicle the H2 and H3 are SUVs.