- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

DETROIT — The 2006 model year will be the last for the Hummer H1, the hulking, gas-guzzling status symbol that has attracted celebrities and off-road enthusiasts but also has drawn the ire of environmentalists.

General Motors Corp. announced plans yesterday for the H1, which is the foundation for the automaker’s Hummer brand. Based on the military’s Humvee, about 12,000 have been put on the road since 1992.

“It’s a reflection of where we’re going with the Hummer brand,” Hummer General Manager Martin Walsh said of the decision. “The Hummer DNA still resides in the Humvee. … It will always be the core from where we come.”

GM expects the last H1s to be built next month.

Mr. Walsh said Hummer plans to focus on models with broader appeal instead of the niche-market H1. Since taking over the Hummer name in 2000, GM has introduced the still-hefty H2 and a midsize H3 sport utility vehicle.

The H1 gets about 10 miles per gallon, but Mr. Walsh said rising gas prices didn’t factor into GM’s decision. He noted that H1 buyers typically have been less sensitive about gas prices than most other drivers.

“If you have to worry about the price at the pump, you don’t have the money to spend on the vehicle in the first place,” said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst with Grand Rapids, Mich., consulting company IRN Inc. “It is such a frivolous purchase.”

The H1 attracted well-heeled drivers looking for a military-style vehicle with an intimidating stance. For the 2006 model year, the H1 was offered as a high-performance H1 Alpha that costs about $130,000 to $140,000.

But even some of those who once touted the mammoth ride kept a bit more distance as the years passed. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first civilian customer when it was sold by AM General, buying a custom-made conversion of the military model as well as civilian production models.

Mr. Schwarzenegger once owned a fleet of Hummers but now has just two. The California governor’s aides say he rarely drives them anymore.

During the 2003 recall election, Mr. Schwarzenegger tried to appear more green by talking up his attempt to convert a Hummer into a hydrogen-powered vehicle. He proposed the idea to GM, and the company ultimately custom-built one for him.

A message seeking comment on the news that GM would discontinue the Hummer H1 was left with his office yesterday.

Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global-warming program, joked that the Sierra Club will have to redesign its Web site that pokes fun at the Hummer.

“We’ll have to add black bunting,” Mr. Becker said of Hummerdinger.com.

The vehicle first was marketed to the public as the Hummer in 1992 by AM General, which also makes the military version. Under a 1999 deal, GM bought marketing rights to the Hummer name and called the vehicle the Hummer H1.

Last year, GM sold 374 H1s, down 16 percent from 447 in 2004.

AM General, which builds the H1, H2 and Humvee in Mishawaka, Ind., said that it doesn’t plan to cut any jobs as a result of the decision. GM said workers there were expected to be shifted to military production.

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