Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer|
Local Hummer drivers are loyal to their brand, even with its gas guzzling tendencies
By Danielle Komis
A Ford Escort is a four of spades. An Isuzu Rodeo is a 10 of hearts. But a Hummer H2? It’s a trump card.
Despite criticism that Hummers are ostentatious gas guzzlers and dangerous on the roads, many Hummer owners stand by their vehicles and say they never want to drive anything else.
Mike Peebles, a business owner from Hartselle who owns a Hummer H2, deflects any criticism his ride draws.
“People are going to say stuff no matter what you do,” he said. “And I say, ‘I’m scared to death for you to drive around in that little bitty car.’ ”
Peebles likes his Hummer H2 better than any vehicle he’s ever driven. He’s driving his third one now.
“It’s got just about everything you want in a vehicle,” he said.
Die-hard loyalty is a typical trait of a Hummer owner, Hummer salesmen said.
“We get a lot of repeat customers,” said Jamey Dennis, a salesman at Crest Hummer in Nashville. “It is kind of an acquired taste.”
The dealership sells about 10 to 12 H2s per month and 35 to 40 H3s each month, he said. The closest Hummer dealerships are in Nashville and Birmingham.
Women and men buy Hummers, usually in the wide age range of 25 to 55, Dennis said. For some buyers, the perceived safety the tank-like Hummer offers its passengers (though some say it poses a greater threat to others on the road) makes it the only vehicle for them and their family.
For other enthusiasts, the ample space and the brand name sell them on the military-inspired vehicle.
Along with Hummer H2’s interior features such as OnStar technology, heated seats, TV screens in the headrests, and a six-disc CD changer, the massive box-on-wheels surprisingly rides like a dream.
“People don’t believe how well it rides until they ride in it,” Peebles said.
And he has driven plenty of luxury vehicles — a Cadillac, Lexus, Porsche, Mercedes, and BMW. But now, the Hummer is the only vehicle for him.
The Hummer H2 also won over the heart of Jeremy Goforth of Decatur. The only drawback to the vehicle is its inefficient gas mileage, he said, which most H2 drivers report ranges from 10 to 15 miles per gallon.
Hummer does not report H2’s fuel economy because its gross vehicle weight is more than 8,500 pounds, making it exempt from reporting gas mileage to consumers. Because of its weight class, the Hummer H2 also is not required to meet federal fuel efficiency guidelines.
However, the H2’s gas mileage isn’t much worse than other large SUVs or pickups they’ve owned, most Hummer owners say.
For many owners, the high cost of gas isn’t an issue.
“If you can afford the car, the gas is a moot point at that time,” said David Childers of Decatur, who drives a Hummer as his company car.
Besides, the cost of gas is worth it for driving something he likes, Goforth said, who spends about $80 filling his gas tank each week.
Vehicle salesmen agreed.
“I don’t think anyone buys it for gas mileage,” said Mike Minor, sales manager at Lynn Layton Chevrolet in Decatur, which sells used Hummers. “They just buy it to look good, I guess.”
And drivers know Hummers look good, because they constantly get stares from other people on the road.
Despite the high cost of gas today, many people are driving Hummers, including Mike Peebles of Hartselle. “People don’t believe how well it rides until they ride in it,” Peebles said.
“If the car next to you has kids in it, they’re always gawking at you,” Peebles said. “My wife says she feels like she’s in a parade or something.”
Jamey Dennis, a salesman at Crest Hummer in Nashville, said his wife refuses to drive his Hummer even to the grocery store because she doesn’t like all the attention.
“I live in Franklin, Tenn., and half of country music lives there,” he said. “Half the people think you’re Faith Hill or something when you pull up to a red light.”
On the other hand, the stares might really be glares. An entire Web site, www.fuh2.com is devoted to railing against the H2, calling it a “poseur vehicle,” “gas guzzler,” “polluter,” “a death machine” and an unfair tax loophole. On the site, people post photos of drivers flipping off Hummer H2s.
To add insult to injury, Hummer owners who use their vehicle for business purposes can get a substantial tax write-off. The break was originally intended to help small farmers afford a truck or van (which are in the same weight class as the Hummer) but instead many white-collar Hummer owners now enjoy the tax savings, too.
However, the tax savings were reduced in recent years after fair-tax advocates cried foul.
“There for a few years we made out like gangbusters,” Peebles said.
Most of the Hummer owners don’t take their vehicles off-road, despite an array of impressive offroad capabilities such as fording 20 inches of water and climbing a 60 percent grade.
“I wish sometimes they’d use them just so they could see what they can really do,” Dennis said. “But a lot of people have trouble taking a $65,000 vehicle out into the woods and scratching it up ... People just come in and buy them because they like the way they look. It’s a status thing.”
Hummers around town
Number of Hummers currently registered in each county:
Morgan County: 99
Limestone County: 18
Lawrence County: 10
The modern-day Hummer originated from tough, all-terrain military vehicles called High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or Humvees. Today, General Motors manufactures the Hummer brand.
1992: The Hummer H1 debuted for civilians at a six-figure price tag. It was a duplicate of the military version but with a cushier interior.
2002: General Motors debuted the Hummer H2. With an MSRP of $55,000, it reached the masses.
2005: The midsize and more affordable Hummer H3 makes its debut, with a less expensive MSRP of about $30,000.
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