What Does the Hummer’s Death Mean for SUVs?

It was the end of an era this week when GM announced it would no longer be manufacturing the Hummer. Arguably the most iconic, symbolic, and divisive vehicle in recent auto history, GM had been trying to sell the brand to a Chinese company to save the suburban tank. As the dwindling demand for the Hummer led to its oblivion, what will happen to the SUV, another grand vehicle that has been the target of similar scorn?

You remember the Hummer, right? It was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the first people to roll around in a street-legal model of the military vehicle. By the time the Governator had converted his gas-guzzler to run on vegetable oil, Hummer was becoming an increasingly-unpopular vehicle in an age when gas prices were rising and the economic climate was going south. As recently as last year, Schwarzenegger was supporting upcoming green models of the vehicle, but it simply wasn’t to be in an auto industry in free fall. Considering their mainstream cousin, the SUV, has been a controversial vehicle with dwindling sales, where is the industry going when it comes to the other road-ready behemoths?

Sports Utility Vehicles have been targeted by watchdogs over everything from gas consumption to security and rollover threats. Nevertheless, the SUVs were some of the most popular models on the road over the past two decades. Arguably this generation’s most enduring symbol of Americana, eco-vigilantes were targeting parked SUVs just a few years ago. But will there be any SUVs left to vandalize?

A few years ago, SUV sales, which had been surging for almost two decades, saw the first signs of decline as SUV models were overtaken by other models. After peaking at 3 million units sold in 2000, that number dropped to 2 million by 2006. By 2008, when automakers were seeing double-digit percentage drops in sales, SUVs in particular were hurting. By the end of that year, GM had closed two SUV plants after seeing multi-billion-dollar losses. As hybrid SUV models were introduced to salvage the vehicle’s popularity, both hybrids and SUVs saw double-digit percentage sales drops. As sales drops led to entire SUV models being discontinued, some people started speculating about the death of the SUV.

But following a sudden, if moderate, surge in sales in the past year, auto manufacturers are still looking to save the SUV by adjusting it to the public’s contemporary auto demands. Companies continue to roll out hybrid models of their most-popular SUVs as well as introduce upcoming compact models. But with the auto industry still in a tough place, it could be interesting to see how the industry’s rehabilitation could lie at least partially with the kinder, gentler, smarter SUV. And will anyone really miss the Hummer?

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

10 science photos that made history and changed minds

These photos of scientific heroes and accomplishments inspire awe and curiosity.

Surprising Science
  • Science has given humanity an incalculable boost over the recent centuries, changing our lives in ways both awe-inspiring and humbling.
  • Fortunately, photography, a scientific feat in and of itself, has recorded some of the most important events, people and discoveries in science, allowing us unprecedented insight and expanding our view of the world.
  • Here are some of the most important scientific photos of history:
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less