Nothing says vulgarity or hubris quite like a Hummer. Clocking in at an average of 13 miles per gallon (21.7 litres per 100km), they are no longer the biggest monstrosity on the roads these days, if you really want to give the planet the finger, you can’t top the élan of a Hummer
Shock then to learn that General Motors in the US has announced it is planning to offload its Hummer business. Petrol prices approaching $4 a barrel have seen sales of the tank-like range of SUVs take a nosedive. GM is scaling back production of SUVs by canning four of its big vehicle plants.
At current US petrol prices, a 100 mile round trip in a mid-sized Hummer, costs about $30 (or around €45, if your Hummer happens to be based in Ireland.
On the subject of oil prices, Richard Wagoner, CEO of GM came right out and said it: “We at GM don’t think this is a spike or temporary shift. We believe that it is, by and large, permanent.” Americans may love their monster trucks, but only if they are fairly cheap to run. Those days are done.
In any event, fewer Americans are now buying new cars these days, and they are looking for smaller, more efficient vehicles, not the gas-guzzlers whose high margins propped up Detroit’s bottom line as it failed to innovate over the last two decades.
GM will begin production of a new small car in 2010 that’ll aim for 45 miles to the gallon, according to a wire service report.
The last oil crisis in the 1970s saw the US motor giants, GM, Ford and Chrysler lose out massively to Japanese manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota, which churned out cheap and cheerful – and well built – runarounds.
The guzzlers were given a new lease of life in the 90s via a combination of petrol that was cheaper than bottled water and silly tax breaks, compliments of the Clinton administration (which was then cozying up to the Detroit labour unions) and made worse by the George W. ‘Tree Hugger’ Bush regime.
The end of cheap oil (and let’s not even get started on the subject of Peak Oil and all it entails) really does mean the end of what the British have nicknamed the Chelsea Tractor. Sure, there are still plenty of them knocking around the highways and byways of Ireland, but how many of these will become glorified chicken coops in an era of runaway oil prices?
Don’t believe me? Just ask Richard Wagoner. He knows about these things.