In this overview of AM General's Hummer line of SUVs, we take a look at the brand's evolution from military Humvee to modern status symbol.
Few vehicles are as instantly recognizable as a Hummer SUV. Unapologetically boxy and impossibly wide, these rugged vehicles were originally built for military use, and it shows. For Hummer aficionados, the fact that these mammoth rock-crawlers are tank-like both in appearance and nature is a selling point, not a flaw. Go to a Hummer dealer and all you'll see are SUVs. There is no such thing as a Hummer car, at least not yet.
The Hummer brand can actually trace its roots back to another military icon -- the Jeep. Designed by the Willys-Overland company in the 1940s, the Jeep became so popular that when Henry J. Kaiser purchased the Willys-Overland company in 1953, the name was changed to Kaiser-Jeep. In 1970, American Motors bought Kaiser-Jeep and renamed it the Jeep Corporation. At that point, Jeep was producing vehicles through two divisions: the Commercial Products division in Toledo, Ohio, and the Government Products division in South Bend, Indiana.
A year later, the Government Products division was spun off as a wholly owned subsidiary known as AM General. In the early 1980s, the company, now owned by the LTV Corporation, designed a vehicle to compete for a contract offered by the U.S. Army. Called the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, or Humvee, as it came to be known), it was designed to serve as the military's main light tactical vehicle. AM General won a 1983 production contract (the first of many with the U.S. Army) that required the delivery of 55,000 vehicles over a five-year period.
AM General's Humvees distinguished themselves in active duty during the Persian Gulf War in the early '90s. The vehicle's wartime prowess garnered a great deal of positive publicity, and not just within military circles. As a result, AM General (now under the ownership of the Renco Group) decided to introduce a civilian version of the Humvee, dubbed the Hummer, in 1992. In 1999, General Motors bought the rights to the Hummer brand name and became responsible for the development, marketing and distribution of future Hummer SUVs.
The original Hummer, called the H1, was sold for a few years as the brand's flagship vehicle. Production ended after 2006, but Hummer has been expanding its vehicle lineup to include vehicles that still possess the Hummer bravado but with more civilized road manners.