Since it was announced that GM was selling the HUMMER brand to Chinese firm Tengzhong, I’ve followed the commentary on Twitter (I’m @rogerdooley) with interest. There were a few surprises. One was that there are a lot of mindless HUMMER haters on Twitter. Despite the fact that the trucks are far from being the leading gas guzzlers on the EPA mileage list, many tweeps seem to revel in the near demise of the brand.
The second theme can be summarized as, “why would an obscure Chinese industrial company buy the right to make gas guzzling consumer trucks with weak and possibly declining market share in the U.S.?”
The answer, I’ll suggest, is branding. While the HUMMER brand has indeed become a lightning rod for critics of America’s love for SUVs, the brand has also build high brand recognition in its short life. Furthermore, HUMMERs have proven themselves to be authentic off-road performers, both in statistical comparisons (able to climb a 16″ step, navigate 24″ of water, etc.) and by the wins logged by Team HUMMER in punishing endurance races.
What better way to leverage this powerful brand image than to extend it to a broader line of industrial vehicles? If Tengzhong aspires to build a strong export market for its current and future commercial product, do you think it would be more successful if these vehicles were branded “Tengzhong” or “HUMMER”?
This would neatly defuse the whole gas-guzzling image problem as well, since Prius-driving greenies devote no thought to the fuel consumption of construction equipment, delivery trucks, and other commercial vehicles.
I found this vehicle on the Tengzhong website:
Here’s my tongue-in-cheek take on what it might look like when Tengzhong decides to start seriously exporting it:
That may be a bit extreme, but if you are a little-known Chinese equipment maker who wants to go to war with with the likes of Caterpillar, Mercedes, and Volvo, wouldn’t you like to enter the battlefield in a HUMMER?